Herbs & Plants

Silene vulgaris

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Botanical Name :Silene vulgaris
Family: Caryophyllaceae
Subfamily: Caryophylloideae
Genus: Silene
Species: S. vulgaris
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Caryophyllales

Synonym(s): maidenstears

Common Names :Silene vulgaris, Silene cucubalus or Bladder Campion

Habitat :Silene vulgaris is native to Europe, where in some parts it is eaten, but is widespread in North America where it is considered a weed.Arable land, roadsides, grassy slopes etc, avoiding acid soils.

Silene vulgaris is a perennial herb, growing to 0.6 m (2ft).
It is hardy to zone 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Lepidoptera, bees.The plant is not self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils.The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils..It cannot grow in the shade.It requires moist soil.

Prefers a well-drained moisture retentive light loamy soil in a sunny position[1, 200]. A good moth plant. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.

Seed – sow early spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. If you have sufficient seed, an outdoor sowing in situ can be made. Division in spring. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Edible Uses:
Young shoots and leaves – raw or cooked. The young leaves are sweet and very agreeable in salads. The cooked young shoots, harvested when about 5cm long, have a flavour similar to green peas but with a slight bitterness. This bitterness can be reduced by blanching the shoots as they appear from the ground. When pureed it is said to rival the best spinach purees. The leaves can also be finely chopped and added to salads. The leaves should be used before the plant starts to flower. Some caution is advised, see the notes on toxicity above.

In Spain, the young shoots and the leaves are used as food. The tender leaves may be eaten raw in salads. The older leaves are usually eaten boiled or fried, sauteed with garlic as well as in omelettes.

Formerly in La Mancha region of Spain, where Silene vulgaris leaves are valued as a green vegetable, there were people known as “collejeros” who picked these plants and sold them. Leaves are small and narrow, so it takes many plants to obtain a sizeable amount.

In La Mancha the Silene vulgaris leaves, locally known as “collejas”, were mainly used to prepare a dish called gazpacho viudo (widower gazpacho). The ingredients were flatbread known as tortas de gazpacho and a stew prepared with Silene vulgaris leaves. The reference to a widower originated in the fact that this dish was only eaten when meat was scarce and the leaves were emergency or lean-times food, a substitute for an essential ingredient. Other dishes prepared with these leaves in Spain include “potaje de garbanzos y collejas”, “huevos revueltos con collejas” and “arroz con collejas”.

In Crete it is called Agriopapoula  and the locals eat its leaves and tender shoots browned in olive oil

Medicinal Uses:
The plant is said to be emollient and is used in baths or as a fumigant. The juice of the plant is used in the treatment of ophthalmia.

Other Uses:
Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it is most likely that the following use can be made of the plant:- The root is used as a soap substitute for washing clothes etc. The soap is obtained by simmering the root in hot water.

Known Hazards:
Although no mention of toxicity has been seen for this species, it does contain saponins. Although toxic, these substances are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm. They are also broken down by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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