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Keywords:

  • climatic limitation;
  • communities;
  • conservation;
  • ecophysiology;
  • geographical and altitudinal distribution;
  • germination;
  • herbivory;
  • mycorrhiza;
  • parasites and diseases;
  • reproductive biology;
  • soils

Summary

  1. This account presents information on all aspects of the biology of Silene suecica (Lodd.) Greuter & Burdet (Lychnis alpina L.) that are relevant to understanding its ecological characteristics and behaviour. The main topics are presented within the standard framework of the Biological Flora of the British Isles: distribution, habitat, communities, responses to biotic factors, responses to environment, structure and physiology, phenology, floral and seed characters, herbivores and disease, history and conservation.
  2. Silene suecica is native to the British flora, being found in just two confirmed localities (one in north-west England and the other in Scotland) on open fell-field and rocky outcrop habitats. It occurs on acid to neutral soil in Britain and elsewhere its circum-arctic range. It often indicates elevated concentrations of copper or other heavy metals, whose presence in the soil restricts the growth of other species; therefore, S. suecica is perceived as a stress-tolerant, competition-avoiding species. Nonetheless, it also grows in more or less closed alpine grassland in Europe; in North America and Greenland, it is known from tundra, rocky barrens, gulleys and river outwashes, grassy slopes and sea cliffs.
  3. Silene suecica is a (semi-)rosette plant with a strong taproot, with no capacity for vegetative spread. The main perennating organ is the slightly lignified rootstock/taproot. The rosette has winter-green leaves; after flowering the rosette leaves die, but new lateral rosettes may be produced in the following year. The longevity of the species is between 3 and 10 years, with the time of first flowering depending on rosette size. Plants that have flowered may die (semelparous individuals), but some are iteroparous and flower again on lateral shoots.
  4. Silene suecica produces protandrous hermaphrodite flowers, but self-pollination may occur. In Scotland about 10% of all plants flower in any year. Pollination is by a range of insects, including flies and bees. Capsules produce up to 80 seeds (mean = 30).
  5. Silene suecica has probably not declined in the British Isles and, in fact, a slight population expansion in permanent plots was observed in Scotland in the early 1990s. Nonetheless, it remains classed as vulnerable to extinction because of its restricted distribution. Both of its British locations are protected as SSSI and SAC (Natura 2000) within national parks. It is common in many countries within its distribution range.