Sea Campion

Sea Campion, a flower of early to mid-summer, flowers into the autumn on The Lizard’s clifftops.

Photo: Amanda Scott

Scientific name: Silene uniflora

Other common names: Dead Man’s Bells, Witches’ Thimbles, Devil’s Hatties.

Although Spring is when the flowers on The Lizard are perhaps at their most glorious, the relatively warm climate means there are some plants that can be seen blooming even in the winter. The books will tell you that Sea Campion, a member of the Pink (or Carnation) family, flowers between June and August, but the delicate white five-petalled flowers can be seen, albeit in much lower abundance, later in the year in milder climates, such as on The Lizard in Cornwall.

Sea Campion is a coastal plant, and its fleshy leaves help it retain moisture in the saline breezes and spray. It also occasionally occurs inland in habitats such as river shingle and streamsides. Unlike some wild flowers, it is very happy in nutrient-rich soils, and is therefore often abundant next to seabird colonies. It is closely related to White and Red Campion (the latter of which can occur in white forms), but can be separated from them by its more inflated calyx (the bladder-like structure behind the petals). Although Bladder Campion, a rarer member of the family, also has an inflated calyx, it has an upright habit, whereas Sea Campion is more prostrate.

Did you know…?

…Take care: folklore instructs us not to pick Sea Campion, as it may invite death to come calling.

Published: January 2014 (updated April 2020)
Author: Amanda Scott
Photos: Amanda Scott