Ontario Weeds: Purple cockle

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Excerpt from Publication 505, Ontario Weeds, Order this publication

Table of Contents

  1. Name
  2. Other Names
  3. Family
  4. General Description
  5. Stems and Roots
  6. Leaves
  7. Flowers and Fruit
  8. Habitat
  9. Similar Species
  10. Caution
  11. Related Links

Name: Purple cockle, Agrostemma githago L.,

Other Names: Corn cockle, nielle, nielle des blés, nielle des champs

Family: Pink Family (Caryophyllaceae)

General Description: Annual or sometimes biennial, reproducing only by seed.

Photos and Pictures

Purple cockle.

Purple cockle.
Purple cockle.

Stems & Roots: Stems - erect, 30-120cm (1-4ft.) high, hairy, with swollen nodes;

Leaves: Opposite (2 per node), stalkless, linear to lance shaped, 5-13cm (2-5in.) long, narrow and silky hairy;

Flowers & Fruit: Flowers large, showy purple or purplish-red on long stalks, the 5 green sepals united for 1/3 to ½ their length forming a calyx tube 12-18mm (½-¾in.) long; the calyx lobes (sepal tips) 2-4cm (4/5-1½in.) long, narrow and projecting between and past the petals; petals 5, large, spreading, purple or purplish-red with black spots; as the seedpod expands inside the calyx tube, it emphasizes the 10 prominent, hairy green, lengthwise ribs on the calyx tube; the mature seedpod inside the calyx being smooth, hairless and orange-brown, and opening with 4 or usually 5 teeth at the top; seeds purplish-black, rounded-angular, about 3mm (1/8in.) across and densely covered with tiny, sharp bumps. Flowers from June to September.

Habitat: Purple cockle was a very common weed in southern Ontario in the days of horse-drawn farm implements but, with the change in farming techniques, it has largely disappeared. However, it still occurs sporadically in cultivated fields, especially in fall-sown crops such as wheat and rye, in the central and western parts of southern Ontario.

Similar Species: It is distinguished by its silky hairy stems with opposite, long, narrow leaves, large purple flowers and large purplish-black seeds.

Caution: Though rare, it is important because its seeds are poisonous to livestock and fowl so it should be eliminated from feed grain.

Related Links

... on general Weed topics
... on weed identification, order OMAFRA Publication 505: Ontario Weeds
... on weed control, order OMAFRA Publication 75: Guide To Weed Control

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