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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

white cockle

Scientific Name: Silene alba

Other Names: MELAL, lychnide blanche, compagnon blanc, Evening lychnis, White campion, oeillet de Dieu, floquet, Lychnis alba Mill.

Family: Pink Family (Caryophyllaceae

General Description: White cockle is a biennial or short-lived perennial reproducing only by seed.

Habitat: White cockle is common in pastures, roadsides, waste areas, gardens and occasionally in cultivated fields throughout southern Ontario. It is comparatively rare in north and northwestern Ontario.


  • Pale yellowish-green colour


  • Woody stem at the base
  • Hairy but not sticky
  • 1.5 – 3.5 feet tall
  • Jointed stem that can be spreading or nearly upright


  • Leaves are opposite (2 per node)
  • First few leaves appear as a rosette or on an elongated stem when it is shaded
  • Soft hairs on both surfaces of the leaves
  • Longer hairs near the edges of the leafstalks
  • Leaf margins are somewhat wavy or wrinkled
  • Middle and upper leaves are stalkless, 2.5 – 10 cm long
  • Lance shaped to elliptic, tapering to a point

Flowers and Fruit

  • Flowers are white, large, showy
  • Dioecious, with male and female flowers on different plants
  • Each flower has 5 sepals that are united along their edges to form a tubular calyx
  • Male flowers have 10 stamens but no pistil
  • Female flowers have 1 pistil with 5 slender styles, no stamens
  • Calyx is cylindrical in male flowers, ovoid to nearly spherical in female flowers
  • Calyx is purple-green
  • Small, rounded, rough seeds that are produced in a bulb-like capsule of the female flower’s seedpod
  • Flowers and sets seed all summer

Often Confused With / Distinguishing Features
It is often confused with purple cockle, cow cockle, bouncing bet, bladder campion and night-flowering catchfly. It is distinguished from purple cockle by its broader leaves and white or pinkish flowers with short calyx lobes. It is distinguished from cow cockle, bouncing bet and bladder campion by its hairy leaves and stem. It is distinguished from night-flowering catchfly by its lack of stickiness, its biennial or short-lived perennial habit, and unisexual flowers.

Herbicide Resistance
No documented cases of herbicide resistance to date.



Rosette of white cockle White cockle seedling Hairy stem of white cockle Distinctive leaf veins of white cockleSmall, rounded, rough seeds of white cockleCalyx of white cockleFlower of white cockleClick to enlarge.