Silene uniflora - Sea Campion

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Caryophyllales - Family: Caryophyllaceae

Silene uniflora, Sea Campion

In coastal locations instantly recognisable dense mats of Sea Campion lie like summer snow along the cliff tops, sometimes even peeping up through banks of sandy shingle.


Up to 30cm in height, these perennial wildflowers form low, broad cushion-like plants. Sea Campion has hairless grey-green waxy leaves which are lanceolate, stalkless and in opposite pairs on the grey-green stems.

Silene uniflora, Sea Campion, close up of flowers

Each with five bi-lobed petals, the flowers range from 2 to 3cm across and either pure white or white with a hint of pink or mauve. Flowers are borne usually singly or very few in a cluster and on upright stems, unlike othercampions which tend to produce many flower heads on one stem. Behind the corolla there is an inflated green-tinged fused calyx, which is five-lobed and lined with reddish-purple or reddish-brown veins. As with other member of the genus Silene, the unscented flowers are dioecious, which means that the male and female flowers occur on separate plants.


Sea Campion is found along much of the coast of Britain and Ireland and in a few low-lying inland locations on limestone habitats in north-west England and western Scotland. Silene uniflora is found on coastal cliffs from Scandinavia down to north-west Spain and Portugal and on Madeira.

Silene uniflora, Sea Campion, a cushion of flowers

Sea Campion is an introduced species in other parts of the world including Australia.


A plant of coastal cliffs, sand-dune systems and gravel banks, Sea Campion also occurs in a few localised lowland sites away from the coast, notably where thin soil overlays a limestone substrate.

Blooming Times

In Britain and Ireland the first flowers of Sea Campion appear in late March, and the floral displays are at their finest from late May (especially when interspersed with patches of Bluebells and Red Campion) until the end of June.

Flowering usually continues until late September and often a few stragglers can be found well into October in sheltered coves.

Silene uniflora, Sea Campion, Wales UK


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 female flowers of Red Campion secrete a frothy foam that captures pollen from insects that come to the flowers to gather nectar.) The specific epithet uniflora signifies that flower stalks of Sea Campion generally bear just a single flower, although this is not always the case.

Sea Campion, Pembrokeshire


Plants of the genus Silene have roots that contain the compound saponin, which although a mildly toxic substance has long been used as soap for washing clothes, hair etc. There are references to some kinds of campion being used to treat snake bites and as a cure for corns and warts.

Similar Species

Sea Campion is sometimes mistaken for Bladder Campion Silene vulgaris, a taller plant withgreatly enlarged sepal tubes, and less often it is confused with White Campion Silene latifolia, whose flower does not have an inflated calyx.

The pictures of Sea Campion shown on this page were taken in Pembrokeshire in West Wales during June.

Sue Parker's latest ebook is a revised and enlarged edition of Wild Orchids in The Burren. Full details here...

Buy it for just £5.95 on Amazon...

Sue Parker's new ebook is a comprehensive and fully revised edition of her acclaimed field guide to the Wild Orchids of Wales. Full details here...

Buy it for just £5.95 on Amazon...

Sue Parker's 5-star acclaimed field guide to the Wild Orchids of the Algarve is now available as an ebook. Full details here...

Buy it for just £5.95 on Amazon...

Wildflowers in the Algarve, an introductory guide, by Sue Parker

Sue Parker's revised and enlarged ebook second edition of the acclaimed Wildflowers in the Algarve - an introductory guide is now available.. Full details here...

Buy it for just £3.95 on Amazon...

Please Help Us: If you have found this information interesting and useful, please consider helping to keep First Nature online by making a small donation towards the web hosting and internet costs.

Any donations over and above the essential running costs will help support the conservation work of Plantlife, the Rivers Trust and charitable botanic gardens - as do author royalties and publisher proceeds from books by Pat and Sue.

© 1995 - 2024 First Nature: a not-for-profit volunteer-run resource

Please help to keep this free resource online...

Terms of use - Privacy policy - Disable cookies - Links policy