Moss Campion
Silene acaulis (L.) Jacq.
Family: Caryophyllaceae, Pink
Genus: Silene
Other names:
Nomenclature: acaulis = stalkless
Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
Edible plant
No medicinal data

General: tufted plant, 3-6 (rarely to 15) cm tall. Growth habit: perennial, from a woody root and a branched stem base, forming thick mats up to 3 dm broad. Stems: trailing, lower parts covered with withered leaves.

Leaves: mainly basal, numerous, partly overlapping, linear to lance-shaped, stalkless, 4-10 mm long, 0.8-1.5 mm broad, hairless to hairy on basal edges or rough-surfaced. Lower leaves stay withered for many years.

Flowers: single, from nearly stalkless in the rosettes to stalks up to 4 cm long. Calyx tubular- to bell-shaped, 3-10 mm long, 10-nerved, frequently pinkish. Corolla pink to lavender, rarely white, the petals 8-12 mm long, with a claw about twice as long as the obovate and notched blade. Appendages usually 2, from as much as 1 mm long to mere callosities, sometimes lacking. Styles 3. June-August.

Fruits: capsules, 3-chambered, cylindrical. Seeds light brown, about 1 mm long, with minute bumps.


Moist, but well drained areas in the alpine zone, often in rock crevices, in s. and n.w. parts of MT. Also from AK to NM, AZ and NV.
var. exscapa:
var. subacaulescens:
Edible Uses

Moss campion is edible cooked. It is consumed as a vegetable in Iceland and in Arctic and Alpine regions. The raw root skins have been used for food by the Eskimos. This report refers to the sub-species S. acaulis ssp. exscapa. However, the plant contains saponins, so larger quantities should probably not be eaten.

Sub taxa:

var. exscapa (Allioni) DC.:
Calyx 4-6 (7) mm long, with broad, triangular lobes. Blade of the petals mostly obovate and notched. Flower stalks much shorter than the calyx.

var. subacaulescens (Williams) Fern. & St. John:
Calyx (6) 7-10 (11) mm long, with longer, narrower lobes. Blade of the petals oblong-oblanceolate, rounded to slightly notched. Flower stalks usually as long as the calyx.

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