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Fire Pink (Silene virginica)

Life history

Species overview

Fire Pink (Silene virginica), a Wisconsin Endangered plant, is found in dry to mesic, oak woodlands, preferring partial shade. Blooming occurs late May through early July; fruiting occurs late June through late July. The optimal identification period for this species is late May through early July.

Synonyms: Silene virginica var. virginica


  • Distinguishing characteristics: The bright red petals, which are notched at the tips distinguish this species.
  • Flower characteristics: Inflorescence open, 7 to 10 flowered; calyx broadly tubular, 18 to 22 mm; petals crimson with 3 mm tubular appendages; limb linear-oblong, 15 to 22 mm, 2-lobed; styles 3.
  • Fruit characteristics: Capsule dehiscent by 6 teeth; seeds roughened.
  • Leaf characteristics: Opposite, entire; basal leaves oblanceolate or spatulate, petiolate, 4 to 10 cm long by 8 to 18 mm wide; cauline leaves in 2 to 4 pairs, sessile or nearly so, to 30 cm long and 3 cm wide.


  • Blooming phenology: late May through early July
  • Fruiting phenology: late June through late July
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is late May through early July


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Acer saccharum, Carya cordiformis, Fraxinus americana, Quercus alba, Tilia americana, Juglans cinerea, Lithospermum latifolium, Aster shortii, Osmorhiza longistylis, Scutellaria ovata, Sanicula marilandica.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Fire Pink (Silene virginica). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Silene virginica in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in dry to mesic, oak woodlands, preferring partial shade.
  • Soils: Rich, rocky soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Fire Pink. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Oak Woodland 2
Southern Dry-mesic Forest 2

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Fire Pink. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological landscape score
Central Sand Hills 2
Southwest Savanna 2

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Maintain partial canopy to encourage woodland species; avoid closed-canopy conditions.
  • Prescribed burns and/or brushing may be beneficial (dependent on local site conditions).
  • Survey for and control invasive plants prior to conducting timber operations, as these can be spread by vehicles and often respond vigorously to increased light; see forestry BMPs for invasive species.


Fire Pink Photo.

Photo by Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR.

Fire Pink Photo.

Photo by Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR.

Fire Pink Photo.

Fire pink is extremely rare in Wisconsin, where it reaches its northernmost range limits in woodlands of the Southwest Savanna.

Photo by Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition