Marcus, Joseph A.
Lobelia cardinalis L.
Campanulaceae (Bellflower Family)
This 1-6 ft. perennial
has showy, red flowers in 8 in., terminal spikes. Each flower has three spreading lower petals and two upper petals, all united into a tube at the base. Erect leafy stems, often in clusters, with racemes of flowers resembling flaming red spires. The lower portion of the erect stem
is lined with lance-shaped leaves.
Although relatively common, overpicking this handsome wildflower has resulted in its scarcity in some areas. Since most insects find it difficult to navigate the long tubular flowers, Cardinal Flower depends on hummingbirds, which feed on the nectar,
for pollination. Its common name alludes to the bright red robes worn by Roman Catholic cardinals. In southern Arizona, Sierra Madre Lobelia (L. laxiflora
) is also found; its corolla
is red with yellow lobes or all yellow.
Image Gallery: 47 photo(s) available
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Herb Leaf Retention: Deciduous Leaf:
Dark Green Autumn Foliage:
5. Petals 5 fused zygomorphic. Stamens
5 fused by their lower parts. Carpels 5 fused inferior.
Blue Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Red
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct
AL , AZ , AR , CA , CO , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , NE , NV , NH , NJ , NM , NY , NC , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , UT , VT , VA , WV , WI , DC Canada: MB
, SK Native Distribution:
S. N.B. to Ont. & s.e. MN, s. to FL, TX & s. CA; plants of the western U.S. belong to ssp. Graminea Native Habitat:
Ditches, Ravines, Depressions, Woodlands edge, Opening, Stream banks, Roadsides, Prairie, Plains, Meadows, Pastures, Savannahs, Near lakes or ponds, Swamps USDA Native Status: L48(N), CAN(N)
Growing ConditionsWater Use:
Low Light Requirement:
Sun , Part Shade , Shade Soil Moisture:
Wet , Moist CaCO3 Tolerance:
Medium Soil Description:
Moist to wet, humus-rich soil. Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Limestone-based, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Clay Conditions Comments:
Cardinal flower has very showy red blooms. It is particularly attractive at the edge of a woodland garden. The soil must be kept moist or wet at all times. A winter mulching in northern climes is beneficial. It can be propagated by bending a stem
down into the mud and fastening it with a rock or sticks.
Aromatic, Color, Showy, Garden, Perennial
garden Use Wildlife:
In bloom, cardinal flower attracts hummingbirds. Nectar-Hummingbirds Use Medicinal:
Amerindians used root tea for stomach aches, syphilis, typhoid, worms. Leaf tea used for colds, croup, nosebleeds, fevers, headaches, rheumatism. Poisonous. (Foster & Duke)
Roots, finely ground, placed in food said to be an aphrodisiac. (Weiner) Use Other:
Used mainly in love potions. Finely chopped roots places in food as love charm. Warning:
POISONOUS PARTS: All parts. Toxic only if eaten in large quantities. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, exhaustion and weakness, dilation of pupils, convulsions, and coma. Toxic Principle: Alkaloids lobelamine, lobeline, and others, plus a volatile oil. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.) Conspicuous Flowers:
Birds , Hummingbirds , Butterflies Nectar Source: