Silene stellata (Starry Campion)

Plant Info
Also known as: Widowsfrill
Family:Caryophyllaceae (Pink)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade; average to dry; open deciduous woods, river flats, prairies
Bloom season:July - August
Plant height:6 to 20 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: panicle Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Loose, branching clusters of stalked flowers at the top of the plant, sometimes also from the upper leaf axils. Flowers are white, about ¾ inch across, with 5 petals deeply divided into several lobes giving it a frilly appearance. In the center are 10 long, slender, white stamens surrounding a globular green ovary with 3 long, slender, white styles at the top.

[photo of calyx] The calyx is light green with feint venation, nearly as wide as long, bell shaped with 5 broadly triangular lobes, and a small dimple at the base where the stalk is attached. The calyx and flower stalks are densely covered in short hairs.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf attachment: whorl Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are widely spaced along the stem, typically whorled in groups of 4 with the uppermost and lowermost leaves in opposite pairs, the largest leaves around mid-stem, and the lowest leaves withering away by flowering time. Leaves are 1¼ to 4 inches long, ¼ to 1½ inches wide, lance to narrowly egg-shaped with a long taper to a pointed tip, toothless, minutely hairy on both surfaces but more sparsely so on the upper, and stalkless or nearly so.

[photo of leaf node and stem] The leaf node is often swollen and tinged red. Stems are typically unbranched, single or multiple from the base, densely short-hairy in the upper plant and more sparsely so toward the base. Plants may be erect or flop over from the weight of the flowers.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] As fruit develops, the calyx inflates and spreads out, becoming nearly triangular in outline. Fruit is a globular capsule; when ripe it opens at the top, with 6 teeth around the opening. Inside are dark brown, kidney-shaped seeds.


Starry Campion is easily distinguished from other Silene species by the frilly petals and leaves whorled in 4s, though we did happen upon a few plants that had opposite leaves along the entire stem. Some references note 2 varieties, but these are not universally recognized and the DNR does not currently make a distinction: var. stellata, with calyx and flower stalks that are hairless or nearly so and is more southern and eastern, and var. scabrella, short-hairy on the calyx and stalks like those plants found in Minnesota.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Houston County, and in Whitewater State Park and Whitewater Wildlife Management Area in Winona County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Brian - St. Peter
on: 2015-01-26 10:36:38

I've seen this plant in a couple of places. The first was in Chamberlain Woods SNA in Le Sueur County (July 15, 2012), just one plant. The second was at Iron Horse Prairie SNA (July 28, 2013), where it was relatively abundant in the northern corner of the SNA.

Posted by: linda - Shooting Star Prairie SNA
on: 2015-08-22 09:35:50

Found on a guided tour of the area on 8-8-15.

Posted by: Kimberly - Pipestone County
on: 2016-07-27 16:24:11

Found a half dozen plants on private property just NW of Edgerton.

Posted by: Kenny h - East of rose creek on shooting star trail
on: 2017-07-12 12:59:06

I like this Campion...only native Campion that I know of...grows quite well here in numerous places along the trail...this is the first day July 12, that the blossoms have opened up decent...calm and cloudy...great photo day!!!

Posted by: Linda - Lebanon Hills Regional Park
on: 2017-07-19 03:09:45

Just started to see Starry Campion the past 2-3 years on Jensen Lake. Bigger clumps each year--very pretty and brightens up the shady areas.

Posted by: Sharon - Hastings
on: 2020-07-28 18:01:09

There is a lot of this in bloom in the prairie at Schaar's Bluff. It looks so pretty with all the purple and yellow coneflowers.

Posted by: Brett W. - Goodhue County
on: 2023-07-23 16:56:42

Happy to have come across this on the way out to the river. Along the Sand Point trail in Frontenac SP.

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