Silene chalcedonica

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Silene chalcedonica
Lychnis chalcedonica B.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Caryophyllaceae
Genus: Silene
S. chalcedonica
Binomial name
Silene chalcedonica
(L.) E.H.L.Krause
  • Lychnis chalcedonica L.
  • Lychnis fulgida Moench

Silene chalcedonica (syn. Lychnis chalcedonica), the Maltese-cross,[2] flower of Bristol, Jerusalem cross,[3] or nonesuch,[4] is a species of flowering plant in the family Caryophyllaceae, native to central and eastern Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and northwestern China.

It is a popular ornamental plant in gardens and has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[5]


Maltese cross, cross of The Order of Saint Stephen
Flower of Silene chalcedonica
A Maltese cross (left) one of many common names for Silene chalcedonica (right, a four-parted flower, though they typically have five cleft lobes)

This plant was first formally named as Lychnis chalcedonica by Carl Linnaeus in 1753.[6] For purposes of taxonomic stability, the genus name Lychnis was formally rejected in 1994 and the name Silene was conserved.[7][8] The plant is now known as Silene chalcedonica, a name published by Ernst Hans Ludwig Krause in 1901.[1][9]

The specific epithet chalcedonica refers to the ancient town of Chalcedon in what is now Turkey.[10]

Numerous common names are attached to this plant, including:[3][4][11]


It is a perennial herbaceous plant growing 35–100 cm (1.1–3.3 ft) tall with unbranched stems. The simple, broadly lanceolate leaves are produced in opposite pairs. Each leaf ranges between 2–12 cm (1–5 in) long and 1–5 cm (0.4–2.0 in) across.

The bright red flowers are produced in clusters of 10-50 together. Each flower 1–3 cm (0.4–1.2 in) in diameter with a deeply five-lobed corolla, each lobe being further split into two smaller lobes. This forms a general shape similar to that of the Maltese cross to which it owes one of its common names. The fruit is a dry capsule containing numerous seeds.

Cultivation and uses[edit]

In cultivation

It is a popular ornamental plant in gardens.[13] It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[14][15] Numerous cultivars have been selected, varying in flower colour from bright red to orange-red, pink or white. It grows best in partial to full sun and in any good well-drained soil, if provided with a constant moisture supply. The flowering period is extended if faded flowers are removed. It is short-lived in poorly drained soil. Double-flowered cultivars are propagated by division.

It was voted the county flower of Bristol in 2002, following a poll by the wild flora conservation charity Plantlife.[4] Its colour is reflected in the livery and crest of the city's university.[16]

As an introduced species[edit]

The species has naturalised in some parts of North America.[17] It can be found along roadsides and other disturbed areas, as well as open woodlands, in the northern United States and Canada.[17]

Thomas Jefferson sowed this plant at Monticello in 1807.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b "Silene chalcedonica (L.) E.H.L.Krause". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  2. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  3. ^ a b Ornamental Plants From Russia: Lychnis chalcedonica
  4. ^ a b c County Flower page on Plantlife website
  5. ^ "Lychnis chalcedonica". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  6. ^ "Lychnis chalcedonica L., Sp. Pl. 1: 436 (1753)". International Plant Names Index. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  7. ^ Rabeler, Richard K. (February 1992). "(1034) Proposal to Conserve 2490 Silene L. against Lychnis L. (Caryophyllaceae)". Taxon. 41 (1): 126–128. doi:10.2307/1222505. JSTOR 1222505.
  8. ^ Brummitt, R. K. (May 1994). "Report of the Committee for Spermatophyta: 41". Taxon. 43 (2): 271–277. doi:10.2307/1222888. JSTOR 1222888.
  9. ^ "Silene chalcedonica E.H.L.Krause, Deutschl. Fl. (Sturm), ed. 2. 5: 96 (1901)". International Plant Names Index. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  10. ^ Harrison, Lorraine (2012). RHS Latin for gardeners. United Kingdom: Mitchell Beazley. p. 224. ISBN 9781845337315.
  11. ^ "Lychnis chalcedonica". EPPO Global Database. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  12. ^ "The Nonesuch: Remarkable Flower of Bristol".
  13. ^ Flora of China: Lychnis chalcedonica
  14. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Lychnis chalcedonica". Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  15. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 62. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  16. ^ "The nonesuch" (PDF). Nonesuch: Inside front cover. Autumn 2015.
  17. ^ a b Morton, John K. (2005). "Silene chalcedonica". In Flora of North America Editorial Committee (ed.). Flora of North America North of Mexico (FNA). 5. New York and Oxford. Retrieved 4 August 2020 – via, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.