In the language of flowers, the Visacara vulgaris (aka Sticky Catchfly) has long carried deep symbolic meanings associated with passion and desire. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about this flirtatious bloom, including its history, origins, uses, benefits, and cultural significance around the world today.
- Viscaria vulgaris Symbolism – The Essentials
- About Viscaria vulgaris (Sticky Catchfly) Flowers
- The Meaning, Symbolism and Cultural Significance of Viscaria vulgaris Flowers
- Viscaria vulgaris FAQs
Viscaria vulgaris Symbolism – The Essentials
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.
About Viscaria vulgaris (Sticky Catchfly) Flowers
Sticky Catchfly flowers are a common sight across Europe and Asia as a cut flower, landscaping addition, and wildflower.
Family, Genus, and Taxonomy
Also known as clammy campion or Lychnis viscaria, this plant is part of the Viscaria genus. The genus includes a handful of other flowering plants similar to sticky catchfly in growth habit. It’s a part of the Caryophyllaceae family, which consists of the flowers known as pinks and carnations.
Botanical Characteristics, Colors, Fragrances
Viscaria vulgaris has a reddish-purple bloom that is relatively small and clustered on a taller stem. The plant has grass-like foliage that bunches around the base, accenting the flower stalks.
Due to their height, the flower stalks often lean over. The plant tends to grow in rocky and alpine areas that can be somewhat extreme compared to cultivated gardens.
History & Origins
The plant has long grown as a roadside and meadow wildflower in its native range. In the 1700s, it was first introduced as a cottage garden plant in Great Britain and popularized in other parts of Europe. It didn’t reach North America until the 1900s.
Popular Types, Species, and Cultivars
‘Splendens Plena’ is one popular cultivar with magenta flowers and tightly packed spikes of blooms. Other widely planted types include ‘Feuer’, and white varieties like ‘Schnee’ and ‘White Robin’. As the cultivar names suggest, this plant is popular in Germany.
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.
What Regions are These Flowers Native to?
It’s believed to have originated in Asia, but it’s also native to Europe dating back at least hundreds of years. The sticky catchfly has naturalized in other countries and continents as well.
When are These Flowers in Season?
Blooming tends to begin in May to early June. The flowers continue through August, providing a summer’s worth of continuous color. The flowers dry up to brown seed capsules, but the plants are easily deadheading when fall begins.
Uses & Benefits of Viscaria vulgaris Flowers
It’s not an edible or medicinal plant, but Viscaria vulgaris can grow in drier and rockier soils than most other garden plants. They’re primarily grown for ornamental and erosion control purposes.
These flowers are attractive to moths, but they often trap small pollinating flies on the sticky stems.
The Meaning, Symbolism and Cultural Significance of Viscaria vulgaris Flowers
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 term Lychnis likely comes from lychnos, a Greek term for a lamp. It’s believed that a former version of the plant was slightly woolly, making the stems useful as wicks in oil lamps.
This can give them the meaning of being a beacon of light and hope.
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.
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.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.