Bladder campion (Silene vulgaris) is found in most parts of the British Isles but is rarer the further north one goes. It grows both on cultivated and on waste land.
It throws up erect, usually hairless, stems to a maximum height of 36 inches (90 centimetres). The leaves, which grow in pairs, are bluish-green and waxy. They are edible and were formerly used as a vegetable because of their similarity in smell (if not taste) to fresh garden peas.
The flowers appear from May to August. The petals are white and deeply lobed, the sepals joining together to form an inflated balloon-like tube that is the “bladder” of the plant’s name. The flowers can be male, female or bisexual. In the latter case the sexes mature at different times. The flowers emit a clove-like scent, but only in the evenings.
The shape of the flowers has evolved to force insects to go deep inside the flower to extract nectar. Clearly this increases the chance that the insect will collect or deposit pollen. However, some bumble bees have devised a method of cheating the bladder campion, which is to bite a hole in the base of the flower where the nectar is stored. Clearly this does the plant no good at all so it is just as well that bumble bees are not the only pollinators!
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Image Credit » Gordon Robertson. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.