Silene conica


An annual of open habitats on free-draining sandy soils. In coastal regions, it is found on stabilised dunes and sandy shingle, in open pastures and on waste ground; inland it also occurs at the edges of tracks across heathland, in abandoned arable fields and on commons. It flowers freely, but good seed production occurs only in hot summers. Lowland.



World Distribution

Eurosiberian Southern-temperate element; widely naturalised outside its native range.

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 8

Moisture (Ellenberg): 3

Reaction (Ellenberg): 4

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 2


Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 4

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16

Annual Precipitation (mm): 702

Life form information

Height (cm): 35

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary

Therophyte (annual land plant)



Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 59

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 10

Atlas Change Index: -1.05

Distribution information

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Silene conica L. 

Sand catchfly

Status: scarce


S. conica is a plant of sandy soils, now mainly found on fixed dunes, and pastures or waste ground near the sea. In East Anglia S. conica is found, usually on disturbed ground, at the margins of fields, by tracks across heaths, and in abandoned arable fields. The non-native records are of casual plants on sandy waste ground and sandy edges to lakes. Characteristic associates are Arenaria serpyllifolia, Cerastium semidecandrum, Plantago lanceolata and Sedum acre. A large West Sussex colony on maritime dunes grows with Aira praecox, Carex arenaria, Cerastium semidecandrum, Phleum arenarium, Poa bulbosa and Vulpia fasciculata. The inland locality in Worcestershire on a sandy common, has been known since at least the end of the last century, and still survives. 

It is an annual, which flowers freely, particularly in warm summers, but is dependant on hot summers for good seed production. Populations in Britain vary considerably in size from year to year.

The plant has not decreased in Breckland although it appears to have declined elsewhere in East Anglia. In Kent, the species is just holding its own with two localities, but the West Sussex colony at Climping has, since 1950, spread along the dunes and at the back of the shingle beach. Here the number of plants increased considerably after the hot summers of 1989 and 1990, followed by the wet springs of 1990 and 1991.

This is a species of south-western and central Europe, occurring through most of the Mediterranean region, but absent from some of the islands (Jalas & Suominen 1986); it is also found in North Africa and south-west Asia, In Europe three subspecies are recognised, subsp. conica, which is the British plant, extends throughout the range of the species except for south-eastern Europe and the Ukraine.


M. Briggs

PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Atlas text references

Atlas (62c)
Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols,
Hultén, E., and Fries M.
, Königstein, (1986)

Jalas & Suominen (1986)
Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols,
Meusel, H., Jäger E., and Weinert E.
, Jena, (1965)

Scarce plants in Britain,
Stewart, A., Pearman D. A., and Preston C. D.
, Peterborough, (1994)