Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Originally from Western Europe, Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris) is a perennial herb with flowers that have a characteristic inflated calyx at their base.
  • It persists via a substantial woody rootstock and is spread by seed.
  • It may be a serious crop weed through both competition and contamination of harvested seed.
  • It is invasive in some native coastal plant communities.
  • It is resistant to some commonly used herbicides.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris) is a hairless to rarely sparsely hairy, perennial (long lived) herb that dies back to its long-lived root-stock after the growing season and flowering and fruiting. Its stems and leaves are covered with a thin waxy layer which imparts a grey-green appearance to the plant. Numerous stems are produced from a thick woody rootstock, and are thin., upright or slightly arched, up to 90 cm long, and bear several opposite pairs of smooth oval to nearly linear (long and narrow) leaves 2-6 cm long and 3-12 mm wide. Leaves are stalk-less and densely clustered at the base of the plant, becoming sparser up the stem.

Flowers are borne at the ends of slender stalks of a successively forking inflorescence (flowering structure). The sepals (outer leaf-like structures) at the base of each flower form an egg-shaped, bladder-like calyx (collective term for sepals) to 15 mm long with 20-30 rather conspicuous longitudinal veins. The five white, rarely pinkish, petals protrude about 1 cm beyond the calyx and are deeply notched.

The fruit is a capsule that remains enclosed in the persistent inflated calyx. The numerous dark grey kidney-shaped seeds to 1.5 mm long are released via six small teeth at the summit of the capsule (Adams 1996; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Recognition: This species can normally be recognised by the combination of the following characters; Thin stemmed smooth herb with opposite leaves; flowers with a large inflated calyx below the and surrounding the petals; dies back to rootstock each year.

For further information and assistance with identification of Balloon Vine, contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour

White or Pink

Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris) is a weed of waste places, cultivated ground and coastal areas in warm to cool temperate regions, usually on freely draining soils, gravels and sands but occasionally on loamier soils, particularly those derived from limestone (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). Most records are from the 500-800 mm average annual rainfall zones (AVH 2020).

Are there similar species?

Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris) resembles several other perennial species of Silene, such as S. dioica and S. latifolia in its general habit, but it may be readily distinguished from both of these more uncommon weeds by the 'inflated (swollen) calyx'. Bladder Campion is also hairless to sparsely hairy, while these other species are softly hairy. There are many other naturalised species of Silene in Australia, but the majority of these are annuals, and lack the substantial root system of Bladder Campion. The family Caryophyllaceae contains many weedy species with some characteristics shared with Bladder Campion (e.g. paired leaves, white, deeply notched petals), but the many veined calyx is a characteristic of Silene in particular, and the inflated calyx, of Bladder Campion in particular (Adams 1996).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris) is a weed of cultivation and waste places. Common along parts of the coast on sand dunes and road sides.

Agriculture: Bladder Campion can form dense patches that limit growth of crops. Before powerful machinery was common, its strong root system was an obstacle to ploughing fields. As it sheds its seed at around the same time as several pasture species, it is likely to contaminate seed harvested from the pasture (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). Bladder Campion impacts on pasture production, although it can be grazed by livestock and is not known to be poisonous. It is an invader in uncompetitive pastures and crops, and also a nuisance in perennial horticulture where herbicides that destroy it cannot be used

Native ecosystems:  On sandy coasts it competes with native herbaceous species and it has been reported as invasive in dry coastal vegetation. It is particularly common on some beaches of the southern Mornington Peninsula in Victoria (Carr et al. 1992; Walsh 2008).

Urban areas: Can be a persistent weed in neglected and abandoned gardens, and spreading under (or over) fence lines.

How does it spread?

Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris) fine seed is dispersed locally when capsules are shaken by the wind. Longer distance dispersal occurs when seeds are mixed in mud or soil adhering to carriers such as animals, footwear or vehicles. On exposed coastal dunes and foreshores some seed is dispersed with wind blown sand. Dispersal may also occur when root fragments are carried to new areas on earthmoving machinery during cultivation or grading activities (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; Walsh 2008).

What is its history in Australia?

Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris) was apparently first introduced into Australia as a garden plant, naturalising and becoming a weed at several sites in Victoria and the Mt Gambier area of South Australia from the late 1870s. The label information of some of the oldest herbarium records from specimens collected in Victoria indicates that this species was a serious weed of crops. It was first recorded from New South Wales at Barbers Creek in 1900 and from both Tasmania (Hobart) and Western Australia (Northam)in 1927 (Western Australian Herbarium 1998; Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; National Herbarium of Victoria 2008; Tasmanian Herbarium 2008).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris) is a deep-rooted perennial, and is therefore not controlled by routine maintenance of perennial pastures. Unless addressed by a targeted control program it may persist indefinitely.

Chemical control: Bladder Campion is resistant to several commonly used herbicides, but chemical control is possible with repeated application of appropriate mixtures (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). Bladder Campion is suppressed rather than effectively controlled by phenoxy-acid herbicides, but is more sensitive to the sulfonylurea group. It grows in uneven clumps which shield late-emerging shoots. For this reason, split applications of herbicide may be needed for effective control. Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au 

Non-chemical control: Physical removal: Small infestations may be controlled by grubbing out plants, but follow-up treatment may be necessary to remove any young plants emerging from the soil seed bank.

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris) is a perennial herb. Its seeds may germinate at any time of year, but it has two peak periods of germination in spring and autumn. Seedlings that germinate in spring usually flower the same year, from October through to January of the following year. Seedlings that germinate in autumn remain in a vegetative state until the following spring. The flower stems die down at the end of summer or in autumn and plants over-winter as rosettes (basal clusters of leaves) (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris) occurs in south-eastern Queensland near Stanthorpe, where it is regarded as doubtfully naturalised (Queensland Herbarium 2008) then with increasing frequency from the border through eastern New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia as far west as Port Lincoln. It also occurs in south-western Western Australia. In Tasmania, it is known from the drier, eastern half of the island, from Hobart to Launceston (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001; AVH 2020).

Where does it originate?

The natural distribution of Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris) is from western Europe, through Scandinavia and eastwards through Siberia to Japan (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Silene vulgaris

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

  • Behen vulgaris Moench
  • Cucubalus inflatus Salisb.
  • Silene inflata (Salisb.) Sm.
  • Silene vulgaris (Moench) Garcke subsp. vulgaris

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Blue Root, Rattlebox

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