Description from Flora of China
Cucubalus Linnaeus; Elisanthe (Fenzl) Reichenbach; Gastrolychnis (Fenzl) Reichenbach; Melandrium Röhling; Otites Adanson; Physolychnis (Bentham) Ruprecht; Pleconax Adanson; Viscago Zinn.
Herbs annual, biennial, or perennial, rarely plants suffrutescent. Stems erect, ascending, or creeping. Leaves subulate, linear or lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate, or elliptic. Flowers bisexual or unisexual; male-sterile flowers frequent in otherwise hermaphroditic plants. Male-sterile flowers often have markedly shorter androgynophores and petal limbs than hermaphroditic flowers. Inflorescence a monochasium, dichasium, thyrse or flower solitary. Calyx tubular, funnel-shaped, campanulate, or ovoid, usually 10-veined, with 5 teeth with ciliate membranous margin; the form of this margin usually varies between teeth in a single calyx. Petals 5, each with a sometimes auriculate claw; limb entire, bifid, 4-fid, or laciniate, variously colored; coronal scales present. Androgynophore ± conspicuous. Stamens 10. Ovary usually with 3 or 5 basal septa; ovules numerous; styles 3 or 5. The protrusion of stamens and styles from calyx mouth are correlated in perfect flowers. Fruit usually a capsule dehiscing with 6 or 10, rarely 5, teeth. Seeds reniform, minute, ± tuberculate, sometimes with abaxial spinose processes or a marginal wing.
Two species are cultivated in China for their attractive flowers, including Silene pendula Linnaeus and S. gallica Linnaeus.
The phylogenetic relationships within Silene are currently under investigation, clearly showing deficiencies in recent subgeneric classifications. Therefore, we refrain from using any formal ranks between genus and species. However, 59 of the 110 species of Silene in China can be attributed to one of three informal groups that approximately correspond to Silene sect. Cucubaloideae Edgeworth & J. D. Hooker, S. sect. Odontopetalae Schischkin ex Chowdhuri, and S. sect. Physolychnis (Bentham) Bocquet. As circumscribed here, the “Cucubaloideae” group is probably monophyletic (characterized by ± creeping habit and fleshy, fasciculate root tubers). However, the character used (carpel number) to distinguish the “Odontopetalae” and “Physolychnis” groups almost certainly results in a paraphyletic “Odontopetalae” group. Moreover, it is probable that the transformation between three and five carpels has occurred more than once in these groups. Nevertheless, we believe that keying out these informal groups separately will aid in identifying species in China.
Much taxonomic research is still needed at the species level, and we have tried to highlight the most obvious, serious problems. We found it impossible to infer the identity of the taxon pertaining to Melandrium chailaricum A. I. Baranov & Skvortsov (Quart. J. Taiwan Mus. 19: 158. 1966).
About 600 species: mainly in N temperate regions, but also in Africa and South America; 110 species (67 endemic) in China.
(Authors: Zhou Lihua; Magnus Lidén, Bengt Oxelman)