Silene menziesii and Moehringia macrophylla are easily confused but observing several quite visible characteristics helps separate the two species:

    The two plants are best separated when in flower: S. menziesii has united versus separate sepals and its petals narrow at their base. (Scroll down to see photographs of these distinguishing characteristics.) The latter two characteristics separate many Caryophyllaceae from one another.

    Leaves of S. menziesii are 1-7 cm long and 3-22 mm wide, lanceolate to elliptic, oblanceolate, or oblong, often a bit widest toward the end and tapering quickly to a point on both ends.

    Leaves of Moehringia macrophylla are 1-7 cm long and 2-15 mm wide, tending to be lanceolate to elliptic and tapering more gradually. 

      Both plants grow in colonies and share similar habitats, although Moehringia macrophylla can grow at higher elevations.

Silene menziesii

Silene menziesii.    Synonym: Anotites menziesii.  (Menzies' Catchfly).
Caryophyllaceae (Pink Family)

Montane.  Open woodlands. Summer.
Valley of the East Fork of the San Juan River, June 25, 2007.

Silene menziesii can be a very common plant of open woodlands.  Its "Catchfly" common name comes from its glandular (sticky) hairs.  The pictured plants are part of a colony of over a hundred plants, a common growth pattern because the plant sprouts from elongated underground roots.  Flowers are quite small and arise from the leaf axil.

Silene menziesii

This plant was first named Silene menziesii by William Hooker in 1830; Edward Greene renamed it Anotites menziesii in 1905.  Weber accepts the Anotites genus name; Flora of North America and John Kartesz accept Silene.  Archibald Menzies, physician and naturalist aboard several major 18th century sea and land explorations, was the first scientist to explore the Pacific Northwest.  Pseudotsuga menziesii, what we now commonly call Douglas Fir, was first collected for science by Menzies, not Douglas.  (More biographical information about Menzies.) 

The Silene genus was named by Linnaeus in 1753, and the name is, according to the Flora of North America, "probably derived from "Silenus", the intoxicated foster father of the Greek god Bacchus, [god of wine] who was described as covered with foam; perhaps this alludes to the viscid secretion covering many species [in the Silene  genus]".

"Anotites" is of unknown origin, but Weber theorizes that it is probably from "a" "notites", meaning "not" "marked", hence "unrecognized".




Moehringia machrophylla
Moehringia macrophylla. Synonym: Arenaria macrophylla. (Bigleaf Sandwort)
Caryophyllaceae.  (Pink Family)

Montane, subalpine. Moist, open woodlands. Summer.
Below Spiller-Helmet Ridge, July 9, 2006.

As the photograph indicates, Moehringia macrophylla grows in loose colonies arising from roots.  Plants grow from two to fifteen inches tall scattered in moist montane forests.  Leaves can have scales and minute hairs; flowers tend to droop from the ends of long pedicels.  Moehringia machrophylla occurs in a few counties of southwest Colorado and northeast New Mexico, but does not occur in Utah or Arizona.  The plants pictured are records for Montezuma County, Colorado.

William Hooker named this plant Arenaria machrophylla in 1830; Eduard Fenzl renamed it Moehringia macrophylla in 1833.  Paul Moehring was an 18th century German physician, botanist, and zoologist.


Moehringia macrophylla. Synonym: Arenaria macrophylla. (Bigleaf Sandwort)
Caryophyllaceae.  (Pink Family)

Montane, subalpine. Moist, open woodlands. Summer.
Below Spiller-Helmet Ridge, July 9, 2006.

Moehringia macrophylla (left) and the somewhat similar Silene menziesii (below) might be confused; a comparison of leaves and flower helps to separate the two.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Questionable presence

Range map for Silene menziesii (Anotites menziesii)

Range map for Moehringia machrophylla