Sp. Pl. 1: 419. 1753.
Plants perennial; taproot slender; caudex decumbent, branched, producing tufts of leaves and erect flowering shoots. Stems simple proximal to inflorescence, 20–80 cm, glandular-pubescent, often subglabrous near base. Leaves: basal numerous, tufted, petiolate, petiole ciliate, blade oblanceolate, 3–10 cm × 8–18 mm, base spatulate, apex acute to obtuse, glabrous on both surfaces, rarely puberulent; cauline in 2–4 pairs, broadly petiolate to sessile, reduced distally, blade oblanceolate to narrowly elliptic or lanceolate, 1–10(–30) cm × 4–16(–30) mm, margins ciliate, apex acute, shortly acuminate, glabrous. Inflorescences open, with ascending, often elongate branches, (3–)7–11(–20)-flowered, bracteate, glandular-pubescent, often densely so, viscid; bracts leaflike, lanceolate, 4–40 mm. Pedicels erect in flower, sharply deflexed at base in fruit, 1/2–1 times length of calyx. Flowers: calyx green to purple, 10-veined, tubular to narrowly obconic in flower, 16–22 × 5–6 mm, clavate and swelling to 7–12 mm in fruit, glandular-pubescent, lobes lanceolate to oblong, 3–4 mm, margins usually narrow, membranous, apex acute or obtuse; corolla scarlet, 2 times longer than calyx, clawed, claw ciliate, gradually widening into limb, longer than calyx, limb obtriangular to oblong, deeply 2-lobed with 2 small lateral teeth, 10–14 mm, glabrous or nearly so, appendages 2, tubular, 3 mm; stamens exserted, shorter than petals; styles 3(–4), equaling stamens. Capsules ovoid, equaling calyx, opening by 3 (or 4) teeth that sometimes split into 6 (or 8); carpophore 2–3(–4) mm. Seeds ash gray, reniform, 1.5 mm, with large inflated papillae. 2n = 48.
Phenology: Flowering spring.
Habitat: Deciduous woodlands, bluffs, moist wooded slopes
Elevation: 200-1300 m
Ala., Ark., Del., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., La., Mich., Miss., Mo., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Pa., S.C., Tenn., Va., W.Va.
Silene virginica is related to the scarlet-flowered species from the southwest, S. laciniata and S. subciliata. It makes a beautiful garden plant in semishaded locations. J. A. Steyermark (1963) recorded the occurrence of a hybrid between S. virginica and S. caroliniana subsp. wherryi in Shannon County, Missouri. Reports of the occurrence of S. virginica in Ontario are based on a collection (CAN, K) made in 1873 from “islands in the Detroit River” in “Canada West.”