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Caryophyllaceae

(Pinks & Carnations)

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The Caryophyllaceae is a family 88 genera and 3000 species of flowering herbs with a few shrubby genera. Most members of the Caryophyllaceae are non-succulent. Those featured below are succulent exceptions. Stem nodes are characteristically swollen and leaves usually simple and opposite. The Caryophyllaceae is distributed through temperate worldwide, although most of the species are in the Northern hemisphere.
 
Unlike other families in the Order Caryophyllales, plants in the Caryophyllaceae have anthocyanin not betalain pigments. They are thought to have evolved from ancestral species with betalains.
 
Species in Dianthus (Pinks, Carnations), Lychnis and Silene (Campions) are grown as garden plants. Many species of Dianthus are sweetly perfumed. Dianthus is of economic importance for the cut flower industry.

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Honckenya  Linnaeus 1753

is a monotypic genus for Honckenya peploides, a widely distributed plant of coastal margins.

 
Honckenya peploides
Honckenya peploides

Honckenya peploides  Linnaeus 1753 (Sea Sandwort)
is a widely-distributed succulent plant with fleshy leaves, that grows on Atlantic and Pacific beach margins around the Northern hemisphere, tolerating salt spray and Arctic cold. Small white flowers are followed by brown domed seed capsules. Roots grow very deep into the substrate. The plant is said to be edible as a pot-herb or pickled.
 
Upper left: On a shingle beach at Littlehampton, West Sussex, UK.
 
Lower left: At Hengistbury Head, Dorset, England.

Silene  Linnaeus 1753 (Pinks, Campions and Catch-Flies)

A family of around 700 species, mostly herbaceous but including several compact, free-flowering species whose showy white, bright pink or red flowers are of value in the garden. The sticky stems of some species trap insects giving rise to the common name. Other Silenes are desirable cushion-forming alpines and just a few have succulent leaves or roots.

Silene acaulis cv. FrancesSilene acaulis cv. Frances

Silene acaulis cv. "Frances"  Jacquin 1762 (Moss Campion)
A succulent member of a mostly non-succulent genus. The plants form a mound of tiny rosettes with fleshy triangular leaves. Underneath the mound of leaves is a substantial tap-root. The flowers on the Southern side of each cushion develop first, followed by those on the opposite side. The small pink flowers have 5 petals with slightly notched blunt ends.

Silene acaulis is distributed across the Arctic and high mountains of Eurasia including Great Britain, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and down the Rocky Mountains of North America to Mexico, usually growing among rocks and gravel. However, the species exhibits considerable variation with numerous sub-species described.
 
   Silene acaulis ssp. acaulis from Arctic N. America has stubby short leaves as depicted above.
   Silene acaulis ssp. subacaulescens from the Rocky Mountains into Mexico is a less compact plant with longer, narrower leaves, and larger flowers.
 
This succulent plant has been used for food but, as it contains saponins, significant consumption is probably best avoided. Being native to cold terrains, it is hard to grow in warm conditions.

Spergularia  Linnaeus 1753 (Sea-Spurreys and Sand-Spurrys)

The genus Spergularia includes around 60 species of small prostrate herbs and sub-shrubs often found on coastal margins and other salty places. Fleshy succulent leaves are a common adaptation to difficult salty environments. Flowers are white to deep pink.

Spergularia marina

Spergularia marina  (L.) Besser 1822 (Lesser Sea Spurry)
An annual plant with smaller flowers and generally more compact overall appearance compared with S. media. Petals are a little smaller than sepals.
 
Photo: Hengistbury Head, Dorset, England..

Spergularia mediaSpergularia media

Spergularia media  (L.) Presl 1826 (Lesser Sea Spurry)
A mat-forming perennial plant of salt-marshes and coastal margins but may also be found inland in salty places. Fleshy, opposite, lanceolate leaves are distributed along reddish stems. Tiny pink flowers with golden stamens are produced in Summer. Petals are a little larger than sepals. Widely distributed around the world.
 
Photos: Chesil Beach, Dorset, England..