Biological Flora of Britain and Ireland: Silene uniflora

Anthony J. Davy, Alan J. M. Baker, Arthur J. Willis

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1. This account presents information on all aspects of the biology of Silene uniflora Roth (S. maritima With., S. vulgaris Garcke subsp. maritima (With.) Á. & D. Löve), Sea Campion, that are relevant to understanding its ecological characteristics and behaviour. The main topics are presented within the standard framework of the Biological Flora of Britain and Ireland: distribution, habitat, communities, responses to biotic factors, responses to environment, structure and physiology, phenology, floral and seed characters, herbivores and disease, history, and conservation.
2. Silene uniflora is a mat-like perennial herb that in Britain and Ireland is primarily distributed in coastal habitats, notably on sea cliffs and shingle banks but also at the drift line and rarely on sand; it also has populations on mountains and heavy-metal mine waste tips. All of these substrates tend to be oligotrophic, loose-textured and freely draining, and often with adverse ion concentrations. It is found in suitable habitats around much of the Atlantic and Baltic coasts of Europe.
3. Its breeding system is gynodioecious and gynomonoecious (some individuals bearing female flowers only, some bearing hermaphrodite flowers only, and others with both types of flower). The proportions of the three types of individual vary considerably between populations but hermaphrodite flowers tend to predominate. The showy, white, nectar-producing flowers are produced continuously over the entire summer and are pollinated mainly by long-tongued Hymenoptera and night-flying moths but autogamous selfing is also frequent.
4. Silene uniflora and its close relative S. vulgaris were the subject of a classic, decadal study involving genetical and transplant experiments that was seminal in the development of ‘experimental taxonomy’. More recently, attention has focused on the rapid evolution of Zn-tolerant populations of S. uniflora growing on mine spoil and contaminated river gravels. It has also become a model organism for the study of sexually transmitted, castrating fungal diseases in plants (notably of the genus Microbotryum).
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Ecology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 28 Apr 2024


  • coastal plant communities
  • experimental taxonomy
  • germination
  • gynodioecy/gynomonoecy
  • insect pollination
  • Microbotryum,
  • metallophyte
  • zinc tolerance

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