Wild Carnation

A genus of about 300 species of evergreen annuals, biennials, perennials, and subshrubs, found from Eurasia to S Africa. Pinks have long been cultivated for their fragrant flowers, and both Dianthus caryophyllus (wild carnation) and D. chinensis (Chinese/Indian Pink) have numerous cultivars that make excellent plants for dry, sunny positions. The word "carnation" has the same origin as "coronation"; pinks were used for celebratory garlands in ancient Greece. Dianthus chinensis was first mentioned in Chinese medical texts during the Han dynasty (CE23-206) and is still important in traditional Chinese medicine. Seeds were first sent from China to Paris in 1705 under the name Caryophyllus sinensis. The closely related D. superbus (fringed pink) is used interchangeably with D. chinensis as the drug qu mai. The Mediterranean D caryophyllus has similar constituents but is little used in western herbal medicine.

Tufted, evergreen, perennial, with a woody base, and gray-green, linear-lanceolate leaves, to 15cm (6in) long. Deep pink to purple, clove-scented flowers appear in a lax cyme on stiff stems, to 80cm (32in) tall, in summer.

Common Name:
Wild Carnation
Other Names:
Clove Pink
Botanical Name:
Dianthus caryophyllus
Native Location:
S Europe, N Africa
Well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil in sun. May be affected by a number of diseases, especially when grown under cover, including Botrytis, Fusarium, and Verticillium wilts, powdery mildew, and leaf and stem rots.
By seed swon in spring or autumn at 13°C (55°F); by cuttings of non-flowering shoots in summer. Dianthus chinensis is usually grown as an annual.
Flowers of D. caryophyllus are picked after 3 hours exposure to morning sunshine and used fresh for oil extraction and culinary use, or dried for potpourris. Plants of D. chinensis are cut just before the flower buds open and dried for use in decoctions, pills, powders, and poultices.
20-50cm (8-20in)
15-23cm (6-9in)
Parts Used:
Flowers, oils
An aromatic, stimulant herb that lowers fevers.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for nervous and coronary disorders. Once used in tonic cordials to treat fevers.
Culinary Uses:
Fresh petals, with the bitter white base removed, are added to salads, candied, pickled in vinegar, and made into a syrup.
Economic Uses:
Flower heads are dried for potpourris; oil is extracted for use in perfumery.
Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pg 192