Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower)
|Also known as:
|part shade, sun; moist, sandy, loamy soil; wet meadows, open woods, shores
|July - September
|1 to 5 feet
|Wetland Indicator Status:
|GP: FACW MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):
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Flowers are in a spike-like raceme up to 2 feet long at the top of the main stem. Individual flowers are crimson red, 1 to 1½ inches long, and tubular. The upper lip is split into 2 lobes that spread out sideways; the lower lip is divided into 3 lobes of approximately the same size and shape. A style with a hooked tip rises up between the upper lobes. One plant usually has a single spike and numerous flowers
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are up to 6 inches long and 1½ inches wide, coarsely toothed, usually hairless, tapering to a sharply pointed tip. Leaves near the base of the plant have short leaf stalks, becoming stalkless farther up the plant. Attachment is alternate. The stem is angled and usually hairless.
Cardinal Flower is an easy plant to ID—nothing else has this deep red flower color combined with this flower shape. Minnesota is at the western edge of its range; it's found mostly in counties bordering Wisconsin, in the St. Croix River floodplain. There is a good size population of Cardinal Flower in Dakota County southeast of Hastings, where Hwy 68 crosses the Vermillion River on the way to Prairie Island Casino. Hummingbirds love it. It is readily available in the garden trade and can do well in cultivation but may not persist without some amount of disturbance; a bit of light raking usually does the trick.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken in a restoration planting in Washington County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Winona County and in his garden.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?