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Bladder campion is a perennial plant species of the genus Silene of the pink family (Caryophyllaceae). The plant is native to Europe and western Asia and naturalized throughout the U.S., Canada, southern Australia and in New Zealand. This is an unusual plant with white, slightly drooping flowers above a purplish veined bladder. It is a nectar plant for butterflies. Silene, the genus name, is a reference to the Greek woodland god Silenus the foster father of Bacchus, who was often depicted covered in a sticky foam and whose name in turn comes from the Greek word for saliva. The specific epithet vulgaris means common.
Up to a metre in height, bladder campion is a much-branching perennial with drooping white flowers, but it is the large inflated calyx that gives this plant its common name and makes it so instantly recognisable.
Branching clusters of stalked flowers occur at the tips of branching stems and arising from upper leaf axils. Flowers are small, about 2cm (¾”) across and about 2.5cm (1”) long, with 5 spreading white petals each deeply divided into 2 rounded lobes. Long white stamens with dark tips and 3 pale styles extend out of the throat. The calyx is light green to pinkish, smooth with distinct venation, has 5 small triangular lobes at the tip, and is typically resembles an inflated (oval to almost round) balloon. This plant blooms anytime from June to August.
Leaves are 2cm (¾”) to 7cm (3”) long, and are up to 3cm (1¼”) wide. They are narrowly lance to oblong or they may be widest above the middle. Margins are smooth, leaves are hairless to sparsely hairy, pointed at the tip, rounded at the base. They are stalkless and nearly clasping. They are light green and smooth with a waxy bloom.
This plant can grow to 1 metre (3') tall. Bladder campion usually branches and can look gangly.
Bladder campions grow in many areas in which the soil is typically dry. It can be found along roadsides, edges of fields, and even in waste places.
Young shoots, leaves (preferably before the pplant flowers) and flowers. Small quantities only are advised. This species might have been consumed since ancient times, but the earliest references are from the seventeenth century in Spain and the eighteenth century in France.
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