White Campion – Silene pratensis

White Campion flowers
White Campion flowers

This biennial from Europe first came to North America as a contaminant in grain seed. It is commonly found growing amongst grains, legumes, and vegetable crops, and has become widespread throughout the northern part of the UA and southern Canada. It was first introduced in the early 1800s.

 

This sweet scented, night blooming plant was used during the Elizabethan era in England in a concoction made with sugar and wine. This concoction was used to sooth the heart. The roots were used as a vermifuge (expels intestinal worms).

 

The root was also used as a soup substitute for washing clothes. To extract the saponin the root is simmered in hot water. Secondarily it could have been used as a fish poison. Fish assimilate saponin directly into their bloodstream through their gills.  The toxin does not kill the fish, but rather stuns them so that they float to the surface where they can be collected with ease.

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