Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago

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S.G. Aiken, M.J. Dallwitz, L.L. Consaul, C.L. McJannet, R.L. Boles, G.W. Argus, J.M. Gillett, P.J. Scott, R. Elven, M.C. LeBlanc, L.J. Gillespie, A.K. Brysting, H. Solstad, and J.G. Harris

Silene L.

Caryophyllaceae, Pink family.

Published in Sp. Pl. 416. 1753.

Synonymy. Cubalus L., Species Pl.: 2 1753.

Melandrium Röhl., Deutschl. Fl., ed. 2, 2: 37. 1812.

Gastrolychnis (Fenzl) Rchb., Icon. Fl. Germ. Helv. 5: t. 206. 1841.

Wahlbergella Fr., Bot. Not. 1843: 143. 1843.

Xamilenis Raf., Autik. Bot. 24. 1840.

Elven, in 2005, suggested the last name because it is of American origin and is the generic name if Silene acaulis is accepted in its own genus. This may well happen; it and its associates are fairly isolated in the currently predominant Silene phylogeny (Oxelman et al. 2001).

Vegetative morphology. Plants 2–30 cm high; perennial herbs; caespitose. Taproot present. Ground level or underground stems horizontal, or absent; rhizomatous, or stoloniferous; elongate, or compact; 0.8–2 mm wide (if applicable). Caudex present. Aerial stems erect, or erect and prostrate. Aerial stem trichomes spreading, or erect (if applicable). Leaves distributed along the stems, or mainly basal; opposite; marcescent. Petioles absent. Leaf blade bases attenuate. Blades 1.5–40(–50) mm long, 1–5(–10) mm wide, spreading, linear or lanceolate or oblanceolate or spatulate, flat, appearing single-veined. Blade adaxial surface dull, glabrous or hairy, hairs pilose or strigose (if applicable), hairs simple. Blade abaxial surface glabrous or hairy, hairs pilose or strigose, hairs sparse or moderately dense, hairs white. Blade margins with non-glandular hairs; apices acute.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems with leaves. Flowering stems hairy. Flowering stems pubescent, or villous. Flowering stem hairs simple; white or translucent, or white or translucent and transparent with red cross-walls; glandular hairs present, or absent. Flowers solitary, or in inflorescences. Inflorescences with flowers in a dichasium. Flowers per inflorescence 1–3; medium-sized, or large. Sepals conventional; 5; fused (usually more or less inflated and bladder-like); 4–15(–20) mm wide; purple, or green and purple; herbaceous, or herbaceous and scarious, or membranous with prominent ribs; accrescent. Calyx tubular, or bell-shaped, or ovoid, or sub-cylindrical; 5-lobed; glabrous, or hairy. Calyx hairs pilose, or villous; glandular, or non-glandular; transparent with red cross-walls (if applicable). Calyx teeth equal or nearly so; 1.2–3 mm long. Petals conventional; free; same length as the calyx, or longer than the calyx; 5; white, or pink, or purple; obovate, or oblanceolate; deeply cleft; 7–20(–25) mm long. Stamens 10; stamen filaments glabrous. Anthers yellow; ellipsoid; 0.4–1.1 mm long. Ovary superior; carpels 3, or 5; syncarpous. Ovaries ovate, or oblong; glabrous. Styles present; 3, or 5; free; 0.5–6 mm long. Stigmas per ovary 1. Placentation free central. Ovules per ovary 15–60. Fruit with calyx persisting; dry; a capsule; ovoid, or oblong; yellowish, or black, or brown; 6–15(–18) mm long; 3–7 mm wide; surface appearing veinless; dehiscent; opening with teeth at the top of the capsule; teeth 5, or 6, or 10. Seeds several to numerous; 0.6–2(–2.5) mm long; brown; surfaces verrucose.

Chromosome information. 2n = 24, or 48, or 72.

General notes. Elven et al. (2005) noted that in the analysis of Oxelman et al. (2001), Gastrolychnis and the Lychnis sibirica group are merged in one of the two branches of Silene. This branch also contains the Anotites group with S. menziesii, the Melandrium group, and the Oberna group with S. vulgaris and S. uniflora; the other branch contains taxa such as S. acaulis. These results confirm morphological evidence in several 'pre-molecular' studies for Gastrolychnis Chowdhuri (1957) and Bocquet (1969) and for the Lychnis sibirica group Voroschilov (1985). A subgeneric classification is impractical in the 11–12 species of arctic Silene.

The Silene uralensis/wahlbergella complex and the S. involucrata complex have been treated as Lychnis (Polunin 1940b, Scoggan 1978), Melandrium (Hultén 1968, Böcher et al. 1968, Porsild and Cody 1980), Gastrolychnis (Löve and Löve 1975, Tzvelev 2000), or Silene (Chater et al. 1993, Cody 1996). Recent molecular evidence supports the inclusion of this group of taxa in Silene, as they are embedded within one of the core clades of Silene (Oxelman and Lidén 1995, Oxelman et al. 1997, Lidén et al. 2001). The S. wahlbergella/uralensis complex (characterised by broad-winged seeds and petals that are comparatively little exserted) is represented by one taxon in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: the very widespread, arctic circumpolar entity Silene uralensis. The S. involucrata complex (characterised by narrow-winged or unwinged seeds and petals well exserted) is represented by the circumpolar widespread S. involucrata and two taxa with a more limited distribution in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: S. sorensenis and S. ostenfeldii (see these taxa for more notes).

Popp (2004) and Popp et al. (2005) convincingly documented that there is a diploid Silene uralensis lineage that has hybridised and polyploidised once with the diploid Asian S. linnaeana lineage to produce the tetraploid S. involucrata, and one or more second times with the same S. linnaeana lineage to produce the hexaploids S. sorensenis and S. ostenfeldii. Silene ostenfeldii was confirmed by Popp et al. (2005) as a good species, and a new name combination must be proposed by someone somewhere. The mainly American species S. sorensenis and S. ostenfeldii seem to have an Asian or Beringian origin (Elven, personal communication, 2005).

Illustrations. • Silene acaulis. Plants forming compact, hemispherical or flat cushions up to 50 cm in diameter. Iceland, Bolungarvík, Stigahliđ, alt. 400–590, 66°11'N, 23°22'W. June, 1995. Photograph by A. Brysting. • Silene involucrata. Plants growing on disturbed gravel. Nunavut, Baffin Island, Iqaluit. 26 July, 1982. J.M. Gillett 19056. • Silene uralensis. Flowers born singly with an inflated membranous calyx that has prominent ribs. N.W.T., Banks Island, Sachs Harbour. 27 July, 1981. J.M. Gillett 18859.


This publication is available on the internet (posted May 2011) and on CD-ROM (published in 2007). These versions are identical in content, except that the errata page for CD-ROM is accessible on the main index page of the web version.

Recommended citation for the web-based version of this publication: Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H., and Harris, J.G. 2007. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa. http://nature.ca/aaflora/data, accessed on DATE.

Recommended citation for the CD-ROM version of this publication: Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H., and Harris, J.G. 2007. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. [CD-ROM] NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa.

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