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The Majestic Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is a herbaceous perennial that grows in moist places on the shores of streams, lakes, and ponds. Cardinal flower is a nectar plant for butterflies, long-tongued bees, and hummingbirds. This plant can be purchased in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Taxonomy and History of Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Herbarium specimen of cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis).
Herbarium Specimen — Lobelia cardinalis L. collected in United States of America by The New York Botanical Garden (licensed under CC BY 4.0)

Taxonomy

Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) was originally described by Carl Von Linnaeus in 1753 in Species Plantarum. Two forms, white and pink flowers, are known. This plant is a member of the Bellfower Family (Campanulaceae).

Description and Alternative Names

Red flowers of cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis).
Flowers of Cardinal Flower — Hardyplants, CC0 1.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Description

This plant is herbaceous perennial that grows to 3 to 6 feet tall. The alternate, simple, lanceolate, finely serrate leaves range from 4 inches in length and about 2 inches in width.

Alternative Names

This plant is also known as Indian Pink.

Range and Habitat

Pond Edge Habitat from Europe.
Pond Shore Habitat — Agnes Monkelbaan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Range

Range map of cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) in the United States and Canada.

This species is found throughout the United States, except for the northwest and northern mid-west states.

Habitat

This plant is found in wet places such as stream banks, pond and lakeshores, and swamps.

Insects that it Supports

Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Hummingbird — mefisher, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nectar Species

While not a host species, this plant is an important nectar source to butterflies, long-tongued bees, and hummingbirds.

Interesting Facts

The genus name, Lobelia, was named for Matthias de l’Obel, a French botanist and doctor (Missouri Botanical Garden). The species name, cardinalis, refers to the color of flower being similar to a Cardinal’s robe.

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