Fl. N. Mitt.-Deutschland ed. 9, 46. 1869.
Plants short-lived perennial, glabrous, rarely pubescent, glaucous; taproot stout; caudex woody. Stems several–many, erect, branched and decumbent at base, rarely simple, 20–80 cm. Leaves mainly cauline, 2 per node, sessile, almost clasping, reduced proximal to inflorescence, blade broadly oblong to oblanceolate or lanceolate, rarely ± linear, 2–8 cm × 5–30 mm, base round, apex acute to acuminate. Inflorescences open dichasial cyme, 5–40-flowered, bracteate; bracts much-reduced, lanceolate. Pedicels 0.5–3 cm. Flowers bisexual and unisexual, some plants having bisexual flowers, others having pistillate unisexual flowers, 15–20 mm diam.; calyx pale green, rarely purplish, campanulate, not contracted at mouth or base, inflated, 9–12 mm in flower, 12–18 × 7–11 mm in fruit, herbaceous, papery, venation obscure, reticulate, without conspicuous pale commissures, margins dentate, lobes broadly triangular, 2–3 mm, glabrous; petals white, ca. 2 times as long as calyx; limb obovate, emarginate to 2-lobed; stamens exserted by 2–4 mm; styles 3, cream to greenish, at most slightly pink tinged, 2 times longer than calyx. Capsules ovoid to globose, equaling calyx, opening by 6 teeth; carpophore 2–3 mm. Seeds black or nearly so, globose-reniform, 1–1.5 mm, finely tuberculate. 2n = 24.
Phenology: Flowering summer–fall.
Habitat: Roadsides, waste ground, gravel pits and shores, arable land
Elevation: 0-2000 m
Introduced; Alta., B.C., Man., N.B., Nfld. and Labr. (Nfld.), N.S., Ont., P.E.I., Que., Sask., Yukon, Alaska, Ariz., Ark., Calif., Colo., Conn., Del., D.C., Ga., Idaho, Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Mo., Mont., Nebr., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., N.Dak., Ohio, Oreg., Pa., R.I., S.C., S.Dak., Vt., Va., Wash., W.Va., Wis., Wyo., Europe.
Silene vulgaris is less variable in North America than in its native Europe, where five subspecies are recognized on the basis of capsule size, petal color, leaf shape, and habit. All North American material appears to belong to subsp. vulgaris, although a few collections from sandy habitats tend to have unusually narrow leaves. Similar plants from Europe have been named var. litoralis (Ruprecht) Jalas and subsp. angustifolia Hayek.