The Cardinal Flower

The Cardinal Flower

Lobelia cardinalis

The Cardinal flower is a member of the Bellflower Family (Campanulacceae). They are native to southeastern Canada, the eastern and southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America. It is a perennial plant that likes to grow in rich moist soil, on stream banks, edges of ponds and the Great Swamp.

The plant grows from clumps at the base 2 to 5 feet tall. The plant produces racemes, which are slender stems; they are covered with bright red, velvet, scarlet flowers (florets) from July to October. The flowers are tubular in shape about 1 1/2” wide with 5 petals. The leaves are 8” long and 2” broad. The edges of the leaves are like little teeth. The leaves grow alternately on the stems. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird loves the flower and is a major pollinator of the Cardinal Flower.

The Cardinal Flower grows well in rich, moist soil. It likes to grow at the base of a tree or the edge of the woods, as it likes protection from midday sun.

Brown seed capsules, with many seeds in them, form at the bottom of the stalk while the top is still flowering. Carefully collect them before they crack open and are scattered by the wind. Store them in the refrigerator in a container for a couple of months before planting. The seeds may be started in a flat and transplanted. The plants can also be divided from the mother plant.

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