Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cardinal Flower

Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower) is a species of Lobelia native to the Americas, from southeastern Canada south through the eastern and southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America to northern Colombia. It grows to about a meter tall (when in flower) and has bright red flowers.

Cardinal flower is often cultivated for ornamental purposes and has also been used for medicinal purposes.

It is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows up to 1.2 m tall and is found in wet places, streambanks, and swamps. The leaves are up to 20 cm long and 5 cm broad, lanceolate to oval, with a toothed margin. The flowers are usually vibrant red, deeply five-lobed, up to 4 cm across; they are produced in an erect raceme up to 70 cm tall during the summer to fall. Forms with white (f. alba) and pink (f. rosea) flowers are also known.

Lobelia cardinalis is related to two other Lobelia species in to the Eastern United States, Lobelia inflata (Indian Tobacco) and Lobelia siphilitica (Great Lobelia); all display the characteristic "lip" petal near the opening of the flower and the "milky" liquid the plant excretes. L. siphilitica has blue flowers and is pollinated by bees, whereas L. cardinalis is red and is pollinated by hummingbirds.

L. cardinalis has been known to cause an upset in the digestive system when consumed.

It was introduced to Europe in the mid 1620s, where the name Cardinal flower was in use by 1629, likely due to the similarity of the flower's color to the miters of Roman Catholic Cardinals.


See also: Flowers Sydney, Flowers Melbourne, Gifts Australia

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