Friday, April 15, 2011

Cardinal Flower

(Pictured: Cardinal Flower from Dr. Thomas G Barnes from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife)

The Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is a native plant to both North and South America, having been first introduced in England around the 1600s. It was named for the Roman Catholic miters that are red in color, considered both regal and a higher standard. In today’s gardens, it is a hummingbird magnet and a focal point in many landscapes. Hardly anyone will say that it isn’t a garden favorite. Beautiful, plentiful, and a big seller in most nurseries around the country, it has been named a "Great Plant for American Gardens" by the American Horticultural Society.

How to Plant and Grow Cardinal Flower
Lobelia cardinalis is a perennial (but may die out before a decade of growth). It grows two to four feet high and is a great addition in bogs, swamps, ponds, or water gardens. It is part of the bellflower family of plants and has fire red flowers that are five lobed and erect. They need to be in moisture and partial shade for best growing results. They are summer to fall bloomers, generally from June to September. This is a plant that is propagated via dividing the fibrous root system and should be divided every three to four years for a continuous stream of blooms. Keeping with this schedule will always have new plants replacing the ones that die out. It is classified as a perennial due to it living over three continuous years, but isn’t going to live more than five to ten without division. It is listed as being for zones 3-9.

Old Folk Remedy
Cardinal Flower was used to make a tea from the roots of the plant in early healing remedies. It was used for things like syphilis and for intestinal disorders. Tea made from the plant’s leaves helped with breathing issues and colds, any respiratory ailments. There were also those that inhaled this to help with catarrh (heavy mucus from infections or colds). This has many alkaloids (nitrogen formed atoms) and can have stimulant effects on people similar to nicotine and morphine. It was also chewed instead of smoked as a tobacco alternative, however this was a cultural use not a medicinal one.

Scientific Classification for Cardinal Flower
  • Kingdom Plantae - Plants
  • Subkingdom Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
  • Superdivision Spermatophyta - Seed plants
  • Division Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
  • Class Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
  • Subclass Asteridae -
  • Order Campanulales -
  • Family Campanulaceae - Bellflower family
  • Genus Lobelia L. - lobelia
  • Species Lobelia cardinalis L. - cardinalflower


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