• Lobelia cardinalis - Cardinal Flower


    "Cardinal Flower is a herbaceous perennial that may grow 4 to 5 feet tall. It is easily grown in rich, medium to wet soil in full sun to part shade. The soil should never be allowed to dry out, and It will tolerate brief flooding. Although it will tolerate full sun in northern climates, it appreciates partial afternoon shade in hot summer climates of the lower Midwest and South. Root mulch should be applied in cold winter climates to protect the root system and to prevent root heaving. Mulch will also help retain soil moisture.

    The leaves are alternate with a toothed margin. Brilliant red blooms first mature in late summer and continue into mid-fall. The showy flowers begin opening at the bottom of a terminal flower spike and continue to the top."  (North Carolina Extension)

    Lobelia Cardinalis Botany  - By Dr. John Hilty


    "The preference is light shade to full sun, and wet to moist conditions. Cardinal Flower adapts to loam, sandy loam, or gravelly soil; the soil should contain some organic matter to retain moisture. This plant doesn't like to dry out and it has a reputation of being temperamental and short-lived. It is easier to establish this plant using transplants, as the seeds are quite small and the young seedlings are rather fragile." (Hilty)

    Faunal Associations:

    "The nectar of the flowers attracts the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird and various Swallowtail butterflies, including such species as Papilio polyxenes asterias (Black Swallowtail), Papilio troilus (Spicebush Swallowtail), and Battus philenor (Pipevine Swallowtail). Sometimes the larger bumblebees will steal nectar through slits in the tubular corolla. Halictid bees sometimes gather pollen, but they are ineffective at pollination. The larvae of a polyphagous fly, Metopomyza scutellata, mine the leaves of Cardinal Flower. The caterpillars of a moth, Enigmogramma basigera (Pink-washed Looper Moth), also feed on the leaves (Schweitzer & Roberts, 2007). The seeds are too small to be of much interest to birds. Mammalian herbivores usually don't consume this plant because of the toxic white latex in the foliage." (Hilty)

    (1) Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes), male, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

    (2) Spicebush butterfly. Taken in Hocking Hills area of Ohio.

    (3) Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) butterfly in Nashville, Tennessee

    (4) Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

    "The Iroquois had many medicinal uses for cardinal flower. The root was boiled together with the root of Cichorium intybus and the liquid was used to treat fever sores. The mashed roots, stems, leaves, and blossoms were made into a decoction and drank for cramps. The plant was also used as an emetic for an upset stomach from eating something bad. The plant was added to other medicines to give them more strength. The Delaware used an infusion of the roots to treat typhoid. The Meskwaki used this plant as a ceremonial tobacco, throwing it to the winds to ward off a storm. The Pawnee used the roots and flowers of cardinal flower in the composition of a love charm." (Anderson)

    1. Type: Herbaceous perennial
      Family: Campanulaceae
      Native Range: Americas
      Zone: 3 to 9
      Height: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
      Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
      Bloom Time: July to September
      Bloom Description: Scarlet red, white or rose
      Sun: Full sun to part shade
      Water: Medium to wet
      Maintenance: Low
      Suggested Use: Naturalize, Rain Garden
      Flower: Showy
      Attracts: Hummingbirds, Butterflies
      Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Wet Soil

      1. Copyright  Long Island Natives
      2. "H20120823-5379—Lobelia cardinalis--RPBG" by John Rusk is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
      3. "Lobelia cardinalis - Cardinal Flower" by FritzFlohrReynolds is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
      4. By Hardyplants - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8758821
      5. By Tim Ross - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3121478
      6.  By Barnes, Dr. Thomas G. - http://www.fws.gov/digitalmedia/FullRes/natdiglib/IMG0052.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8639099

      Botanical illustration: "The Botanical Magazine, Plate 320 (Volume 9, 1795)" by William Curtis, Public Domain.

        (1) By D. Gordon E. Robertson - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15788550
        (2) By Greg Hume - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17707578
        (3) By Ryan Kaldari - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7342481
        (4) By Pslawinski - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34189653

        Writing Sources:

        North Carolina Extension plant description: Lobelia Cardinalis (Cardinal Flower, Indian Pink, Lobelia) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolboxhttps://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/lobelia-cardinalis/. Accessed 3 Feb. 2022.
        "John Hilty botany, cultivation, and faunal associations: John Hilty, Copyright 2002-2020,  Illinois Wildflowers, 24 January 2022 <https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/index.htm>
        Ethnobotany: Anderson, M. Kat, Cardinal Flower, <https://plants.usda.gov/DocumentLibrary/plantguide/pdf/pg_loca2.pdf>, USDA, NRCS, National Plant Data Center c/o Department of Environmental Horticulture, University of California, Davis, California

        Information and images compiled by Erik N. Vegeto

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