SHAHINA A. GHAZANFAR & YASIN J. NASIR
Saponaria silenoides H. Winkler
Perennial up to 50 cm tall. Stems many, erect to ascending, glabrous, simple or branched, arising from a woody stock. Leaves 10-150 x 3-7 mm, linear-lanceolate, base of lower leaves attenuate, apex acute, glabrous to minutely pubescent margin; upper cauline leaves smaller, sessile. Inflorescence a lax cyme. Bracts small, margin ciliate. Pedicel longer than the calyx, glabrous. Calyx 5.6-7 mm, cylindrical, narrow at the base, green subcoriaceous, scabrid or rugose; teeth triangular, acute, 15-nerved. Petals white or pink, the limb oblong, entire, slightly exceeding the calyx; claw narrow. Coronal scales 2-fid. Carpophore absent. Capsule oblong, partially exserted from the calyx. Seed reniform, dark brown, reticulate.
Fl. Per.: July. Fr. Per.: August.
Type: Afghanis, Griffith 1642 (G; K).
Distribution: (Central Asia) Pamir-Alai, Iran, Afghanistan, N. Pakistan.
In Pakistan found at altitudes between 2100-3800 m.
The fleshy rootstock (which smells like pipe tobacco) is used as a substitute for soap. It is called “Zennah” in the Kurram Agency and it is one of the few herbs growing under pine trees (Aitchison op. cit).
Saponaria griffithiana has been recognised in a separated monotypic genus Pleioneura Rech. f. mainly on the basis of the calyx nerves. There are 3 nerves in each segment of the calyx, with a few branches in the upper part of the calyx and that too only after anthesis (Rechinger, op. cit. 1963).
The species seems to occupy an intermediate position between Saponaria and Gypsophila having the cylindrical calyx of Saponaria and the presence of commissural veins (at least in the upper part of the calyx) of Gypsophila. I have preferred to retain the species under Saponaria.