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Marcus, Joseph A.
Lobelia cardinalis L.
Synonyms: Lobelia cardinalis ssp. graminea, Lobelia splendens
USDA Symbol: LOCA2
USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.
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.
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 , AR , AZ , CA , CO , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NV , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WI , WV 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:
Moist , Wet 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 , Butterflies , Hummingbirds Nectar Source:
Seeds Seed Collection:
As seeds approach maturity, the capsule
opens slightly at its top. Check capsules at both upper and lower portions of the stalk. Store dried, cleaned seed in a sealed, refrigerated container up to three years. Seed Treatment:
This species requires or benefits from a three month period of cold-moist stratification in the refrigerator. Commercially Avail:
Mr. Smarty Plants says
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From the National Suppliers Directory
According to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:
Edge of the Woods Native Plant Nursery
- Orefield, PAWrights Nursery
- Briggs, TXAmandas Garden
- Springwater, NYSunshine Farm & Gardens
- Renick, WVEnchanter's Garden
- Hinton, WVOhio Prairie Nursery
- Hiram, OHAmerican Native Nursery
- Quakertown, PAToadshade Wildflower Farm
- Frenchtown, NJPrairie Nursery
- Westfield, WI
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Fredericksburg Nature Center
- Fredericksburg, TXLady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
- Austin, TXPineywoods Native Plant Center
- Nacogdoches, TXSanta Barbara Botanic Garden
- Santa Barbara, CADelaware Nature Society
- Hockessin, DECrosby Arboretum
- Picayune, MSNueces River Authority
- Uvalde, TXTexas Parks and Wildlife Department
- Austin, TXNative Seed Network
- Corvallis, ORNPSOT - Williamson County Chapter
- Georgetown, TX, TX
Wildflower Center Seed BankLBJWC-618
Collected 2007-10-21 in Travis County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
* Available Online from Wildflower Center Store
Bibref 928 - 100 easy-to-grow native plants for Canadian gardens
(2005) Johnson, L.; A. Leyerle
Bibref 1207 - Earth Medicine, Earth Food
(1990) Michael A. Weiner
Bibref 417 - Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America
(2000) Foster, S. & J. A. Duke
Bibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes
(2002) Wasowski, Sally
Bibref 765 - McMillen's Texas Gardening: Wildflowers
(1998) Howard, D.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region
(2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 248 - Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide
(1984) Loughmiller, C. & L. Loughmiller
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife
(1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender* The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.
Bibref 328 - Wildflowers of Texas
(2003) Ajilvsgi, Geyata.
Bibref 286 - Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country
(1989) Enquist, M.
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Recommended Species Lists
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Record Modified: 2012-12-07
Research By: AMS