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Silene albaSilene alba
Grave Flower

Klso known as Mother-Die, Grave Flower is unlucky to pick in some parts of England. It was associated with snakes in Nebraskan folklore and oddly enough, in Wales, where it was believed that anyone who picked it would be attacked by snakes. In Wales folklore, picking it could also cause thunder, giving rise to another of its common names, thunder flower. Prohibition of picking a plant usually means the plant is connected to the Fae, which is indeed the case with grave flower. Snakes, the Fae, and graves are all associated with the Underworld (Fae live under the hill, snakes = dragons, a chthonic creature, graves go without saying). I think the fact that the flower opens and exudes scent at night has something to do with this, but I was not able to find further information. Some say this flower is dedicated to Hera and was woven into garlands for her in ancient Greece; I could not find anything to back that up, but this plant has gone through a LOT of name changes in the past couple hundred years. In an odd conmnection between love and death that goes back to ancient Greece, grave flower was used in British folk magic to attract men. Consider this Saturn herb for working with the dead, the Fae, raising storms, and love magic. Because of its connection to graveyards, I suspect there is a lot more to this plant magically than meets the eye.

Female campion flowerIndividual frave flower plants have gender (all flowers on the plant will be either female or male; females have a fatter "bladder"). This European native has been naturalized in North America, much like other Europeans. The fragrant flowers open in evening and stay open until the following mid-morning. They are pollinated by sphinx moths, which also enjoy jimsonweed, toloache, and woodland tobacco. Simmering the root makes a soapy water for textiles. This soapiness also indicates in this plant a mild toxicity; the root was made into a purgative by Native people. However, cooking destroys the saponins, and the leaves of grave flower are included in mixed greens that are boiled, strained, and dressed with olive oil in Dalmatia (part of Croatia). It is also part of an ancient herb soup recipe in Italy called "ministrella," which is composed of 27 leafy greens. As far as I can tell, this plant has not been used medicinally. grave flower was in the past called bachelor's buttons because of the shabby cloth buttons bachelors might wear, the tattered edges of which resembled the edges of this flower's petals. grave flower is also known as death flower (Germany), flower of the dead, grave flower, grave plant, white bachelor's buttons, our lady's candles, thunder flower, cow rattle, white robin, white cockle, white cuckoo flower, white bottle, evening lychnis, and bladder campion.

How to Grow Grave Flower

Male campion flowerBarely cover to germinate in 2-3 weeks at 68-80F/21-27C. This plant gets 1.5-3.5ft/30-100cm tall. It likes rich soil (compost heaps), full sun, and chalky soil--you can see why it is fond of growing in cemeteries, where it has these things. It also enjoys growing along footpaths, roadsides, banks, edges of woodlands and prefers dryish soil to boggy. It does not do well with acidic, peaty soil. It flowers May-September and can be annual, biennial, or a short-lived perennial. It reproduces mainly through seeds, which can live underground for 70 years, although 3 years is more common. One plant can make 25,000 seeds, but they tend to fall out of the dried seedpods in winter, where they provide food for overwintering small birds like sparrows and finches. General growing info  


Silene alba
Grave flower
100 seeds $3.75


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Can't be shipped to WA

Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Working with the Dead
Fae herb
Raising storms
Love magic
Saturn herb

2016, 2018 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission