A perennial plant with the evergreen basal leaves, the woody rhizomes and the dark colored stems . The clammy-campion is drought-resistant, it grows well in acidic and sandy soils but as well as rocky, even lime soils. The flowers are eagerly visited by pollinators.

Wild, non-cultivar seeds.

SKU: N095

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About the species

Polish name: common tar,purple-black tar, sticky catchfly, tar catchfly, tar brick, tar ribbons

Latin name: Viscaria vulgaris Rohl. son. Lychnis viscaria L., Silene Viscaria Borkh., Steris viscaria Raf., Viscaria atropurpurea Griseb.

Family: the pink family Caryophyllaceae

Status in Poland: native, quite frequent, naturally rarer only in the mountains

perennial plant
Flower color:
about 40 cm


A tufted, durable herbaceous plant with evergreen basal leaves, woody rhizomes, dark colored stems, sticky to the touch like tar, often overgrown with epiphytic sooty molds, giving it a tarry color.

The root system develops differently. It can consist of either a stout taproot up to 1 m deep, or a reduced taproot and bundles of the whitish adventitious roots. The adventitious roots, depending on the type of soil, tend to be short and thin or long and thick. Viscaria vulgaris has two types of the shoots 1) powerful, branching, strongly woody rhizomes, sprouting stems and roots, and 2) erect, usually unbranched flower stems.

The leaves are arranged opposite decussate; clearly divided into nodes and internodes; the stems are bare almost everywhere, only in the inflorescence and just below it hairy; otherwise covered by brown secretion. It produces 2 types of leaves: the upper leaves are linear, short, with fused petioles (sessile), and the lower ones – wide, long, with petioles, lanceolate or spatule, very unequal in length on the same stem.

The clammy-campion inflorescences are described as two-armed cymes or panicles, each containing 3-6 flowers. The single flowers apart from the calyx and corolla, also have the so-called anthophore, that is, 1-5 mm high bulge of the torus, raising the stamens upwards. The calyx takes the form of a narrow tube made of fused sepals. Most often, it is flushed pink, trumpet-like towards the end, bare, although there are also tomentosed or glanded. Shallow indented, all-edge petals of the corolla clearly divide into the top of the petal and the so-called claw. The claw will be bare, narrow, only 1-3 mm wide by 5-12 mm long. The top of the clammy-campion petal is 4-10 mm long, and 2-8 mm wide. 10 clammy-campion stamens are bare, pink or violet, thin and tall, protruding beyond the corolla. The pistil in this species will be top, with 5 stigmas, and a single ovary with a long style.

The fruits are numerous, typical for the pink family, ovoid capsules. Each such capsule is divided inside into 5 (rarely more, up to 8). As it ripens, it bursts the remains of the flowering calyx that protect it to open with 5 (occasionally up to 8) teeth. The single seeds are characterized by a kidney shape, a relief in the form of warts, 0.4-0.7 mm long, and finally dark, brown or blackish color. One tuft produces from 9 to 25 thousand seeds per year.

Additional information


The plant is easy to grow, light-loving, but tolerates partial shade. It grows nicely on many types of soils – prefers permeable, acidic soils, tolerates barren, rocky and even lime soils. It tolerates frosts and short droughts. Cultivation succeeds best on fresh, moderately fertile ground, formed of siliceous and effusive rocks, slate or sandstone, although it will grow even on vertical coastal cliffs, contaminated and movable railway / tram tracks or on highly alkaline clay and limestone. The heat and long drought can be dangerous for seedlings, but not for mature specimens.

Although unpleasant to the touch, it is sometimes grown as a cut flower, in city parks and in naturalistic beds due to its visual and aromatic qualities. It is recommended to use clammy-campion as often as possible in field margins and urban meadows, in heather gardens (erikaria), on rockeries and flower walls, with an optimal density of 9 individuals per 1 square meter of a flower meadow or flowerbed. In order to extend its flowering, it is worth removing ripened inflorescences on a regularly.

New clammy-campions can be produced by several methods. Usually, it is recommended to divide the strongly expanded clumps in winter and plant them into new flower beds / erikaria / flower meadows every 3 years. The seeds germinate easily and evenly, do not need cold stratification, germinating profusely both in spring and autumn, even at fairly low temperatures. It is recommended to have a very high ambient humidity (90-100%) and a temperature of about 16 degrees Celsius.Specimens over 3 years old may get sick and thus disfigure the meadow.

Interesting facts

Clammy-campion because of the sticky stems, and the content of bitter saponins was eaten only by deer, rodents, rabbits, and also by old sheep and goat breeds. Cows and horses avoided it, so it was exterminated by former farmers.

As a common plant, simple to spot, important because of many considerations for gardeners, and shepherds, went through a lot of research. Today it belongs to the best-known plants in Europe. For example, its genetics have been known, both in the scale of the entire range and sparse, vanishing populations. It’s known that in the case of clammy-campion, genetic drift immediately changes the genetic structure of the population and the shape of flowers, but does not significantly affect seed germination biology.

Clammy-campion in seed mixtures:

Use Value

A good species of honey plant, despite the deep location of the nectaries at the very base of the ovary, the extraordinary stickiness of the shoots and the shape of the flowers not very comfortable for the honey bee, recommended even for cultivation by former beekeepers-scientists such as Lipiński. When the calyx tube is completely filled with the ovary, the honeybees have quite good access to the flower’s nectar . The bee bread collected from clammy-campion is distinguished by a creamy-gray color. The flowering and pollination of clammy-campion has been studied a lot. Flower development depends on the age and condition of the rhizome, the weather and the gnawing by herbivores. The flowers are cross-pollinated and protandrous, i.e. they first release pollen from the stamens, and the pistils are immature, and only after the stamens wilt, they collect the pollen of other flowers onto the mature pistils. There is still a debate as to whether better clammy-campion Viscaria vulgaris pollinators will be the bumblebees, and the cuckoo bumblebees because of the long ligulars? Or maybe some butterflies and moths that visit flowers in greater distances and move faster than the bumblebees? The clammy-campion inflorescences are often hosted by flies and solitary bees, but they only rob pollen and nectar, without contributing to the production of healthy seeds.

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