LOBELIA FAMILY - Lobeliaceae: Cardinal Flower; Red Lobelia
Flowers--Rich vermilion, very rarely rose or white, 1 to 1-1/2 in. long, numerous, growing in terminal, erect, green-bracted, more or less 1-sided racemes. Calyx 5-cleft; corolla tubular, split down one side, 2-lipped; the lower lip with 3 spreading lobes, the upper lip 2-lobed, erect; 5 stamens united into a tube around the style; 2 anthers with hairy tufts. Stem: 2 to 4-1/2 ft. high, rarely branched. Leaves: Oblong to lance-shaped, slightly toothed, mostly sessile.
Preferred Habitat--Wet or low ground, beside streams, ditches, and meadow runnels.
Distribution--New Brunswick to the Gulf states, westward to the Northwest Territory and Kansas.
The easy cultivation from seed of this peerless wild flower--and it is offered in many trade catalogues--might save it to those regions in Nature's wide garden that now know it no more. The ranks of floral missionaries need recruits.
Curious that the great Blue Lobelia should be the cardinal flower's twin sister! Why this difference of color? Sir John Lubbock proved by tireless experiment that the bees' favorite color is blue, and the shorter-tubed Blue Lobelia elected to woo them as her benefactors. Whoever has made a study of the ruby-throated humming bird's habits must have noticed how red flowers entice him--columbines, painted cups, coral honeysuckle, Oswego Tea, trumpet flower, and cardinal in Nature's garden; cannas, salvia, gladioli, pelargoniums, fuchsias, phloxes, verbenas, and nasturtiums among others in ours.