AppearancePerennial herbaceous plant, 10-20 cm high, hairy stems, with single and glandular hairs mixed, prostrate, forming a dense carpet. Opposite, ovate-acuminate leaves with cordate base, the lower ones not united in a rosette, the cauline leaves spaced out, semi-amplexicaul. Flowers isolated or few in inflorescence racemiform, pentacyclic, pentamerous, heteroclamidated with well differentiated calyx and corolla; pubescent calyx, gamosepal, with sack sepals grown together with 10 nerves and acute teeth, campanulate, 11-15 mm long; corolla with 5 petals with vexillary function, bilobial, ending with a claw, pinkish-white petals, veined with green; 10 stamens, 3 styles, ovary formed by 3 carpels united at the apex in a single structure. Oblong dehiscent capsule with 6 teeth, 8-10 mm long, about twice as long as the carpophore; reniform, reticulated or very tubercular seeds. Pollination: entomophilous by lepidoptera.
HabitatCliffs, on granite and gneiss from 1200 to 2200 m.
DistributionSub endemic to the Maritime Alps, present from Rocca dell'Abisso to Monte Tenibres.
EtymologyThe name of the genus seems to derive from the Greek sialon, "saliva", most probably refers to the stickiness of some plants belonging to this genus and to the fact that they often have the stem covered by secretions similar to saliva; this term, however, is also linked to the mythological figure of Silenus, companion of Bacchus, perennially drunk and with swollen belly, just like the calyx of these flowers. The name of the species comes from the heart-shaped shape (cor, cordis in Latin) of the leaves.
Fun factThe genus Silene is dedicated to the satyr Silenus, son of the sylvan god Pan and of a nymph. Of extraordinary wisdom, he despised earthly goods and had the gift of clairvoyance. The myth tells that he was chosen because of these gifts to be the educator of the young Dionysus, god of wine, of summers and the liberation of the senses. Once his task was over, he became his drinking and eating companion. For this reason, in painting and sculpture, he is represented as an old man, bald and with a swollen belly, characteristics that led Linnaeus to choose this name for rotund flowers" of the Silene.
Endemism: endemic species are animals or plants living exclusively in a given territory. When this is very limited, we speak of "restricted" endemism. "Endemic" is not necessarily synonymous with "rare": rare species may have few individuals distributed over large areas, an endemic species can also be abundant in a given area, but be limited to that single territory.