Moss campion – Silene acaulis

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Alaska Wildflowers | Pink

Moss campion – Silene acaulis

Moss campion

Silene acaulis (L.) Jacq

Common Names

compass plant
cushion pink
moss campion


Silene acaulis var. acaulis
Silene acaulis ssp. arctica
Silene acaulis ssp. subacaulenscens
Silene acaulis var. exscapa
Silene acaulis var. subacaulescens

Genus: Silene
Family: Caryophyllaceae (Pink)
Order: Caryophyllales
Full Classification


Perennial (evergreen)


For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.

Moss campion generally considered edible. However, there is documentation of the roots being used food in Iceland and by the Inuktitut in Canada. It has also been used as a gastrointestinal aid for children with colic by the Gosiute Indians of Utah. There are no modern medical records or studies toward its medical use.

Identification and Information

Flower: Pink, small, 5-petaled (lilac-like smell)
Leaves: Narrow, bright green, densely packed (moss-like)
Root: Long taproot reaching between crevices in rocks

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Moss campion is a cushion-like plant with 6-12mm (1/4-1/2 in) diameter, pink or whitish-pink 5-petal flowers, and 10 stamens. The leaves are bright green, short and narrow, giving the appearance of moss. Moss campion grows in rocky, sandy, dry alpine areas with full sun. These “cushions range in diameter from a few centimeters up to 30 cm (1 foot) in diameter and are only 5-15 cm (2-6 inches) tall. The flowers themselves usually don’t rise much above the leaves, but sometimes rise a few centimeters above the cushion.

Distribution and Habitat

Source: USDA

In North America, Moss Campion is widely distributed from Alaska, Greenland, most of Canada except Saskatchewan, the Rocky Mountain States southward to Arizona and New Mexico, as well as New York, New Hampshire (critically imperiled), and Maine (presumed extirpated). Silene acaulis has a circumboreal distribution and is found across Eurasia as well, in particular, Siberia, The British Isles, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and can be found in the Alps.

Moss campion flowers in early summer and is found in alpine tundra, gravelly stream beds, and rocky ledges. It prefers moist soils and lots of sunlight.


RankScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae  (plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants)
SubkingdomViridiplantae  (green plants)
InfrakingdomStreptophyta  (land plants)
DivisionTracheophyta  (vascular plants, tracheophytes)
SubdivisionSpermatophytina  (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)
FamilyCaryophyllaceae  (pinks, cariophyllacées)
GenusSilene L. (silènes, campion, catchfly)
 SpeciesSilene acaulis (L.) Jacq. (cushion-pink, moss campion)

References and Further Reading


Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers; Pratt, Verna E. pg 19


Silene acaulis (L.) Jacq., ITIS Report.


Silene acaulis (L.) Jacq., Native American Ethnobotany Database

Silene acaulis var. exscapa (All.) DC., Native American Ethnobotony Database


Silene acaulis – (L.)Jacq., Plants For A Future

1. Silene acaulis (Linnaeus) Jacquin, Enum. Stirp. Vindob. 78, 242. 1762., Flora of North America

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