The Cardinal Flower is the bright-red flower of a North American plant (Lobelia cardinalis) and is a member of the bellflower family. It usually grows in, and really prefers, damp places or shallow water habitats.
In late summer the brilliant scarlet of Cardinal Flower can be observed in marshes, stream banks and low wet woods. Its extremely showy blossoms can be recognized quite easily. Few native plants have flowers of such intense color as this common herbaceous perennial.
The blossoms are delicate, gradually opening from bottom to top on two to four foot spikes. Five petals are united into a scarlet two-lipped corolla. The lower lip has three very prominent lobes; the upper lip has two small ones. Five stamens are joined forming a red tube around the style and are topped by bearded anthers which form a mustache-looking brush.
Beneath the flower spikes numerous dark green leaves taper at both ends. A moderately tall plant, stout and erect, it is the favorite of hummingbirds, who oblige as pollinators.
The numerous seeds come in two-celled pods which open at the top.
It is beautiful but also deadly. This plant has been used as a medicine but is also very poisonous. It contains fourteen alkaloids similar to those in nicotine. Extracts of the leaves and fruit produce vomiting, sweating, pain and finally death.
The Cardinal Flower is a member of lthe Bellflower family. It was named after the Flemish botanist, Matthias de L'Obel (1538-1616).
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