Indian Pink

Indian pink (Silene laciniata) is a red flower. The common name refers not to the color of the flower but, according to one source, to the edges of the petals, which look as though they were cut with pinking shears. More likely, the name “pink” refers to the Pink Family (Caryophyllacae) to which this flower belongs. Cardinal catchfly is another colloquial name for Indian pink.

Several subspecies of Indian pink are identified throughout its range – California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. A perennial native, Indian pink is found in open woods, pine forests and gravelly slopes up to approximately 4,000 feet in elevation.

Arising from a taproot, the one or more weak Indian pink stems are erect or decumbent, often leaning against other vegetation, and can grow to a meter in length. The upper portion of the stem has sticky, glandular secretions.

Indian pink leaves are opposite, lance-shaped and covered in sticky hairs.

Each Indian pink stem has one or several flowers, each on a long pedicel (stem). The five scarlet petals are deeply divided into four to six lobes. There is a pistil with three parts and ten stamens. The sepals are fused into a tubular green or reddish calyx with ten prominent veins.

The Indian pink fruit is a capsule containing reddish-brown seeds.

Hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to the flowers and aid in pollination.

The genus name, Silene, may come from the Greek “sialon” meaning “gummy secretions”. Another possible derivation may refer to Silenus, a friend of Bacchus in Greek mythology, who was covered with a foamy material similar to the glandular secretions of the plant. Laciniatia, the species, in Latin is a fringe or flap on a  garment and alludes to the deeply lobed petals.

These Indian pinks were photographed in June along the Potem Falls Trail in the Shasta Trinity National Forest (Shasta County CA).

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