€2,25 – €9,00
A native perennial that copes best in damp and sunny positions. The delicate flowers of the ragged-robin have a characteristic shape and a beautiful pink color. Formerly, this flower was believed to have magic properties. Wild, non-cultivar seeds.
Polish name: frayed campion, brick flower, fillet, field carnations, cuckoo, grinders, shreddy, tar, frayed tar, ribbons
Latin name: Silene flos-cuculi syn. Lychnis flos-cuculi
Family: the pink family Caryophyllaceae, subfamily Caryophylloideae, tribe Sileneae
Status in Poland: native, common, formerly exterminated in meadows and pastures as a weed poisonous to cattle and horses
A delicate, persistent plant (perennial), with single shoots and pink flowers, often as if spit on (in fact stained with the secretion of the spittlebugs).
The root system consists of a primary root measuring 50-80 mm and tiny lateral roots.
The stem is greenish with a burgundy shade rough and simultaneously sticky like tar (hence the folk names: tar, frayed tar) to the touch, angular, erect and very stiff, it grows out of a earthbound rosette of leaves. It only branches at the top.
It forms two types of leaves: basal and stem. The basal ones are larger (2-15 cm long and 0.4-3 cm wide), petioled, spatulate or lanceolate. The stem leaves are always sessile and lanceolate, reaching 1,5 cm width and 8 cm length.
Silene flos-cuculi flowers are intensely pink, quite large (up to 38 mm in diameter) and numerous (up to 3 to 30 per one shoot), with separate petals, divided into calyx and corolla, usually bisexual. The corolla consists of 5 deeply pink petals, fitted with a paracorolla, and narrowing into a claw. Each petal of the corolla is cut deep into four patches. The calyx is made of 5 sepals, forming a stiff red tube. The flowers form loose cyme-type inflorescences fitted with bracts, the top flower is formed first, then on two branches from the node. The pistil is single-ovuled and five-part, while the stamens are arranged in two whorls of five each. In the first whorl the stamens are significantly longer than in the second.
The fruit, like the rest of carnations, is an elliptical capsule that opens with five lobes. It remains green until seeds are dispersed. Only orthodox seeds with TSW 0.167g.
It is not picky towards the soil, growing well in sandy, loamy and clay substrates of any reaction, although slightly acidic or completely neutral will be the most suitable.
However, it likes moist, even wet, but permeable soil, rich in humus and calcium, and the sites light or only partially shaded.
In order to extend the flowering of the ragged-robin it is worth removing the fayed inflorescences on a regular basis.
There are many ways to obtain the offspring: dividing old clumps, herbaceous cuttings or sowing seeds.
Latin species name flos-cuculi means “cuckoo flower”. The ragged-robin blooms when the cuckoos are most active having a courtship time and then tossing eggs to tiny songbirds. The peoples of Western and Central Europe believed that the foamy human-like secretion of spittlebugs often observed on flowers was cuckoo saliva, and so they attributed various magical properties to it.
Although this plant was very common locally, it did not play a major role in quack medicine. In southern Europe it was sometimes used against malaria, migraines or abdominal pain, and in the British Isles after a snake bite. Modern academic medicine has proved the antifungal and antibacterial properties of this herb.
Ragged-robin blooms in late spring and summer (May to July). The flowers are protandrous, in contrast to the campion they are usually bisexual, although there occur single flowers that are only female or only male.
Only insects (some butterflies and hymenopterans) with very long mouthparts contribute to the formation of seeds, and they are able to reach the nectar at the torus of the flower tube without damaging it. At the time the inflorescence bends under the weight of the pollinator and the flower opens downwards showering the insect with pollen. Both the viscosity and the hairiness protect the flowers of the ragged-robin against pollen and nectar robbers.