Caryophyllaceae (pinks)


A low, clump-forming perennial with many slender, spreading stems that are sticky from glandular hairs. Flowers arise on fairly long stems (peduncles) from upper leaf axils. Calyx (the joined sepals) a 5-pointed cylindrical tube with 10 parallel nerves. Corolla (joined petals) lobes narrow, each with a single notch, brilliant red. Where the lobes open from the tube there is a small, crownlike circle of red lobes, this corona (crown) also red. Stamens protrude from the corolla. Blooms April–June. Basal leaves usually numerous at flowering. Stem leaves opposite, simple, narrow, to 4 inches long, with or without short hairs and/or stalked glands.


Height: to 2 feet, but usually much shorter.

Habitat and conservation

Wooded slopes and valleys, bottomland forests, rich upland forests, banks of streams and rivers, bases and ledges of bluffs, edges of pastures, and shaded roadsides. Also increasingly cultivated in rock gardens, native plant gardens, and woodland gardens.

image of Fire Pink distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Scattered in the Ozarks and Ozark border counties; uncommon or sporadic in the plains of northern and western Missouri and in the Bootheel lowlands. Cultivated statewide.


The name "pink" refers not to the flower color but to the family of this plant, the Caryophyllaceae, the "pinks." This family includes the genus Dianthus, which embraces the carnations and several other flowers called "pinks." The color name of "pink" may have come from these flowers. The earliest meaning of the word "pink" refers not to any color but to something that is "cut out," like the notched edges of the petals (this is reflected in the term "pinking shears").

Human connections

Another of our native Missouri wildflowers that is an excellent subject for gardening. It prefers part shade and moist, well-drained soils. The flowers are showy and attract hummingbirds. Please don't dig these from the wild; buy them from ethical native plant nurseries.

Ecosystem connections

Hummingbirds are the main pollinators of this species. Most bird-pollinated flowers are red, a color that bees are inefficient at detecting. This system benefits plant, birds, and bees. Plant-pollinator relationships are fascinating to study, with applications in horticulture and agriculture.