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This easy-to-grow prairie plant attracts hummingbirds and butterflies and adds a head-turning splash of red to mid-summer gardens.  It grows 2-3 feet tall in full or part sun and adapts to a wide range of moistures and soils. Although it takes a few years to reach its potential, even when small, it produces clumps of downy leaves and tall, unbranched stems that bear profusions of star-shaped, scarlet flowers.  Each flower has a sticky, one-inch calyx that traps unsuspecting insects, thus the common name.  While royal catchfly is not a true carnivorous plant, some in the scientific community believe it could be on the evolutionary path to someday becoming one.

 

A threatened species in Ohio, royal catchfly is one of the few red-flowered plants native to the Midwest and is one of very few prairie plants that is pollinated by hummingbirds, most notably the ruby-throated.  Hummingbirds’ ability to carry pollen between sub-species of catchfly helps to maintain genetic diversity of the wildflower, which has declined in population due to agricultural expansion and the encroachment of invasive shrubs.  

 

Red is an uncommon color among prairie plants because not many bees or other pollinating insects are drawn to this range of the light spectrum.  However, some butterflies perceive red, and the tubular calyx design accomodates the long proboscises of butterflies, hummingbirds and some long-tongued bees.   

 

Native habitats include well-drained, rocky soils of prairies, savannas, barrens, open woodlands, roadsides, and the edges of pioneer cemeteries.  The plants are used for prairie restorations and flower gardens, and they are a vibrant addition to meadows, cottage gardens, beds, and borders.  

 

Plant Characteristics:

Grows 2-3’ tall and 18-24” wide at maturity.  

 

Prefers full to part sun.

 

Will grow in moist, well-drained loam, sandy, clay, or rocky soils, but tolerates drier soils once established.

 

Small clusters of intensely red flowers occur at the top of the plant from late June to August. Fruit capsules ripen late August-September.  Seeds are dispersed as the plant stems are shaken by the wind. 

 

The stems and 2-4”, lance-shaped leaves are usually green and covered with downy hairs, but sometimes the stems have a purplish tinge. 

 

Wildlife Value:

The nectar attracts hummingbirds and butterflies, including several swallowtail species, and other long-tongued pollinators.  Six species of Lepidoptera larvae use plants in the Silene genus as their host plants, including the hitched arches moth and four specialist moths: Lacinipolia renigera (both pictured here), Hadena ectypa, Hadena capsularis and Coleophora apicialbella Braun.

 

Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

There are no reported medicinal or folklore uses of this plant.

 

Royal Catchfly, Silene regia

$4.00Price
Excluding Sales Tax
  • Once we're certain we have good germination, we'll make these plants available for prepurchase.

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