Red Campion

White Campion

"...drifts of campion along the verge of Magpie Road..."

Walter de la Mare (1873-1956) wrote of the comfort brought by campion and other wildflowers to a “poor old widow”…who….”sowed her garden with wild-flower seeds…..”

And now all summer she sits and sews
Where willow herb, comfrey, bugloss blows,
Teasle and pansy, meadowsweet,
Campion, toadflax, and rough hawksbit;
Brown bee orchis, and Peals of Bells;
Clover, burnet, and thyme she smells;
Like Oberon’s meadows her garden is
Drowsy from dawn to dusk with bees.
Weeps she never, but sometimes sighs,
And peeps at her garden with bright brown eyes;
And all she has is all she needs –
A poor Old Widow in her weeds.

Campion is one of several species which, in different parts of the country, are called cuckoo flower because of their spring blooming, supposed to coincide with the arrival of the cuckoo; the title however is more generally applied to Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis). The campion seems to be afflicted by some sort of agoraphobia, as it is very reluctant to grow in the open, preferring more shady hedge bottoms and roadside verges. Attempts to establish it in the “wild flower meadow” in the Pocket Park failed completely but it thrives happily enough in the rough areas by the pond. It may also be seen in drifts along the verges of the Helmdon and Magpie Roads.

The flowers vary in colour from quite a deep red to pale pink and, as it hybridises readily with its near relative, the White Campion (Silene latifolia), white forms are also found. Like many other wild flowers, it makes quite a showy garden plant for one of the less manicured areas of the garden, but take heed – it is very generous with its seeds.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service.
Image reproduced by kind permission of Ordnance Survey
and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Text by George Metcalfe. Photographs by Colin Wootton.