Cardinal Flower – Lobelia cardinalis

Cardinal Flower is the only Red flowered Lobelia
Cardinal Flower

This is the only plant in the genus Lobelia that has red flowers. Cardinal flower is pollinated by the ruby-throated hummingbird. They are attracted to it in droves partially due to the red flowers!

Native Americans used this and other Lobelias to treat worms, stomach problems and syphilis. Its use for the latter by the Cherokee and Iroquois Indians prompted testing in England in the 1770s but the results were negative. Beautiful but deadly, this plant has been used, as a medicine but is also very poisonous.

The root was part of a Native American love potion and the powder of the entire plant may have been used as sort of a magic power to dispel storms and was used in ceremonies.

Nathaniel Hawthorne penned a fitting tribute to the cardinal flower. He said, “The world is made brighter and sunnier by flowers of such a hue … it arrays itself in this scarlet glory. It is a flower of thought and feeling, too; it seems to have its roots deep down in the hearts of those who gaze at it.” In the language of flowers Cardinal Flower means Distinction and Splendor


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