Sticky Catchfly Tales: Meanings Behind the Unique Bloom

In the language of flowers, Viscaria vulgaris (aka Sticky Catchfly) has long carried deep symbolic meanings associated with passion and desire. Here, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this flirtatious bloom, including its meaning and symbolism in the language of flowers.

Viscaria vulgaris (Sticky Catchfly) Meaning and Symbolism

Viscaria vulgaris Symbolism – Key Takeaways

A joyful, almost leaping flower hovers above sparse foliage, symbolizing dance and movement. Viscaria vulgaris is also considered an alluring, flirty symbol of desire, including in the Victorian flower language.

Etymological Meaning

The plant’s common names, clammy campion, and sticky catchfly, refer to a sticky section of the plant’s stem. They’re not the most appealing names, but most people don’t even notice these unique features of the Viscaria vulgaris plant unless handling them. 

Viscaria is derived from the Latin term viscum, which refers to bird droppings and how sticky they are. The vulgaris part of the name indicates how common this plant is in its native area.

Common Viscaria vulgaris Flower Colors

The standard color for Viscaria vulgaris is pink to magenta. This gives it a meaning of gentleness, happiness, youth, playfulness, fun, developing romance, and friendship. 

Some varieties feature darker red or purple blooms, adding passion, elegance, or luxury to the meaning. White is the only other color commonly seen in this species. This color symbolizes purity, healing, recovery, grief, and new beginnings.

Attracting Suitors of All Kinds

The stickiness of the flower stems lends it an obvious symbolism that can be used regardless of culture or time period. 

Sticky catchfly has long been informally considered a symbol of attractiveness, desire, and seeking out someone for love. It’s earned this reputation both across Europe and Asia where it grows natively. 

While it may not be associated with any specific myths or folklore in these countries, it’s a common symbol of the countryside where less formal symbolism rules. 

The Victorians in particular would use it to symbolize a compelling desire for someone that couldn’t be explained in words.

A Symbol of Dance

Topping out at just 24 inches in height, the plant is somewhat delicate and cheerful. This, coupled with the joyfulness of its bright pink flowers, is likely why it has earned its place as a symbol of dance

Many people have used it as a bouquet flower for asking someone to a formal dress or similar event. It’s often associated with the phrase “May I have this dance?”, even in Victorian times.

Shining Beacon of Light

The alternative scientific name for sticky catchfly, Lychnis viscaria, has a meaning that can also apply to the plant today. 

The name Lychnis likely comes from lychnos, a Greek word for a lamp. A former version of the plant was slightly woolly, and the stems were useful as wicks in oil lamps. 

This can give them the meaning of being a beacon of light and hope.

Viscaria vulgaris FAQs:

What do Viscaria vulgaris flowers symbolize? 

Visacaria vulgaris (Sticky Catchfly) carries the symbolic meaning of hope, desire, attraction, and the playful joy of dance in the language of flowers.

Do Viscaria vulgaris flowers come back every year? 

Yes, as long as they are grown in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8.

What do Viscaria vulgaris flowers smell like? 

Sticky catchfly don’t have a particularly noticeable smell, but they can smell slightly sweet as the flowers dry.

What are Viscaria vulgaris flowers used for? 

They’re primarily used as ornamental landscaping plants in rock gardens.

What pollinators do Viscaria vulgaris flowers attract? 

Moths find the flowers irresistible, but pollinating flies often end up stuck to the stems instead of reaching the nectar.

Are Viscaria vulgaris flowers poisonous to humans and animals? 

They’re not considered particularly irritating or toxic, but the safety of eating them purposefully is not established.


It’s not widely available as a cut flower, but Viscaria vulgaris is a great landscaping plant for making a statement in a rock garden. Give it dry and alkaline conditions and it’ll happily bloom for multiple years. With its unique meanings and symbolism, it’s worth adding to almost any yard with the right conditions for it.

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