Lobelia cardinalis

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Lobelia cardinalis
File:Cardinal flower20010810.PNG
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Asterales
Family: Lobeliaceae/Campanulaceae
Subfamily: Lobelioideae
Genus: Lobelia
Species: L. cardinalis
Binomial name
Lobelia cardinalis

Lobelia cardinalis, the Cardinal Flower, is a perennial that grows 2-4 feet tall and is found in wet places, streambanks, and swamps. Leaves are lanceolate to oval and toothed. The plant flowers during the summer, with vibrant red blooms cited by Roger Tory Peterson as "America's favorite". A white form is also known. Discovered in Canada by explorers, it was sent back to France in the mid 1620s. The name Cardinal flower was in use by 1629, likely due to the similarity of the flower's colour to the miters of Roman Catholic Cardinals [1]. It can be found in North America from New Brunswick, to Florida to Texas to Minnesota, though it is most concentrated in Southern Ontario, New Brunswick, Michigan, and Minnesota[2][3]

North American indigenous peoples used root tea for a number of intestinal ailments and syphilis. Leaf teas were used by them for bronchial problems and colds, inter alia. The Meskwaki people used it as part of an inhalant against catarrh. Although related to tobacco, it was apparently not smoked, but may have been chewed. [4] The plant contains a number of alkaloids. As a member of the genus Lobelia, it is considered to be potentially toxic.[2]

Lobelia cardinalis is related to two other wildflowering plants common to the Eastern United States: Indian Tobacco and Great Lobelia, all of which display the characteristic "lip" petal near the opening of the flower and the "milky" liquid the plant excretes. It has been known to cause an upset in the digestive system when consumed.


  1. Donaldson, Cathy. Cardinal Flower—Spectacular Scarlet Blossoms That Hummingbirds Adore Plants & Gardens News Volume 14, Number 3; Fall 1999. online at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. accessed 23 May 2006.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Foster, Steven and James A. Duke. Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, "Peterson Field Guides", Houghton, Mifflin 1990 edn. ISBN 0-395-92066-3
  3. Peterson, Roger Tory and Margaret McKenny. Wildflowers; Northeastern/North-central North America,"Peterson Field Guides", Houghton, Mifflin 1968 edn. ISBN 0-395-91172-9.
  4. Guédon, Marie-Françoise. Sacred Smudging in North America, Walkabout Press 2000

See also

External links