Common Catchfly (Silene gallica)
Pink Family (Caryophyllaceae)
Species info: The specific epithet gallica means of or from or referring to France. This species is native to Europe, but has naturalized in the western and southeastern USA and in northwestern Baja California, Mexico. It is most commonly found in our region in disturbed substrates along roads, trails, ditches, or in vacant lots. This non-native species is an annual, has opposite leaves, and white to pink flowers.
Genus info: The genus Silene is the most diverse genus in the Caryophyllaceae in San Diego County and is represented with eight species including the very attractive and rather common Southern Pink (Silene laciniata ssp. laciniata), which has bright red flowers. Many of the members in this genus have sticky, glandular hairs on their upper stems and sepals or glandular patches on the stem internodes, and because small insects frequently get stuck in these glandular areas they are sometimes called catchflies. According to M. Charters (http://www.calflora.net/botanicalnames/pageSI-SY.html), the genus name is derived from the Greek sialon, meaning "saliva" and refers to the sticky material on the stems, but it might be also named for Silenus, who was the drunken father of the god of wine and he was covered with foam, which resembles the glandular exudate found in many species of this genus.
Family info: Caryophyllaceae: The Pink family has a worldwide distribution and includes 87 genera and 2300 species. In San Diego County, this family is represented with 19 genera and 42 species, but 22 of these species are non-native to our region. Members of this family are mostly annuals and herbaceous perennials with simple, opposite leaves, often swollen nodes, and flowers with 5 petals (sometimes deeply lobed or fringed) and a superior ovary that develops into a dehiscent (splitting) capsule. Ornamental pinks and carnations (of the genus Dianthus) are in this plant family; hence the common name for the entire family.