Lobelia cardinalis

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Lobelia cardinalis
Lobelia cardinalis - Cardinal Flower.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Campanulaceae
Genus: Lobelia
L. cardinalis
Binomial name
Lobelia cardinalis
    • Dortmanna cardinalis (L.) Kuntze
    • Dortmanna cordigera (Cav.) Kuntze
    • Dortmanna engelmanniana Kuntze
    • Dortmanna fulgens (Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.) Kuntze
    • Dortmanna graminea (Lam.) Kuntze
    • Dortmanna longifolia (C.Presl) Kuntze
    • Dortmanna phyllostachya (Engelm.) Kuntze
    • Dortmanna splendens (Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.) Kuntze
    • Lobelia cardinalis f. alba (J.McNab) H.St.John
    • Lobelia cardinalis var. alba J.McNab
    • Lobelia cardinalis var. angustifolia Vatke
    • Lobelia cardinalis var. candida Alph.Wood
    • Lobelia cardinalis f. cordigera (Cav.) Bowden
    • Lobelia cardinalis var. glandulosa N.Coleman
    • Lobelia cardinalis var. graminea (Lam.) McVaugh
    • Lobelia cardinalis subsp. graminea (Lam.) McVaugh
    • Lobelia cardinalis var. hispidula E.Wimm.
    • Lobelia cardinalis f. hispidula (E.Wimm.) Bowden
    • Lobelia cardinalis var. integerrima Alph.Wood
    • Lobelia cardinalis var. meridionalis Bowden
    • Lobelia cardinalis var. multiflora (Paxton) McVaugh
    • Lobelia cardinalis var. phyllostachya (Engelm.) McVaugh
    • Lobelia cardinalis var. propinqua (Paxton) Bowden
    • Lobelia cardinalis var. pseudosplendens McVaugh
    • Lobelia cardinalis f. rosea H.St.John
    • Lobelia cardinalis var. texensis (Raf.) Rothr.
    • Lobelia coccinea (Moench) Stokes
    • Lobelia cordigera Cav.
    • Lobelia cordigera var. fatalis E.Wimm.
    • Lobelia cordigera var. marryattiae (Paxton) E.Wimm.
    • Lobelia cordigera var. multiflora (Paxton) E.Wimm.
    • Lobelia fulgens Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.
    • Lobelia fulgens f. atrosanguinea (Hook.) Voss
    • Lobelia fulgens var. multiflora Paxton
    • Lobelia fulgens var. propinqua Paxton
    • Lobelia fulgens var. pyramidalis Paxton
    • Lobelia graminea Lam.
    • Lobelia graminea var. intermedia E.Wimm.
    • Lobelia graminea f. kerneri (L.Nagy) E.Wimm.
    • Lobelia graminea var. phyllostachya (Engelm.) E.Wimm.
    • Lobelia ignea Paxton
    • Lobelia kerneri L.Nagy
    • Lobelia longifolia (C.Presl) A.DC.
    • Lobelia marryattiae Paxton
    • Lobelia mucronata Engelm.
    • Lobelia phyllostachya Engelm.
    • Lobelia porphyrantha Decne. ex Groenland
    • Lobelia princeps Otto & A.Dietr.
    • Lobelia propinqua J.W.Loudon
    • Lobelia punicea Otto & A.Dietr.
    • Lobelia punicea var. kerneri (L.Nagy) E.Wimm.
    • Lobelia ramosa Burb.
    • Lobelia schiedeana Heynh.
    • Lobelia splendens Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.
    • Lobelia splendens var. atrosanguinea Hook.
    • Lobelia splendens var. fulgens (Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.) S.Watson
    • Lobelia splendens var. ignea Hook.
    • Lobelia texensis Raf.
    • Rapuntium cardinale (L.) Mill.
    • Rapuntium coccineum Moench
    • Rapuntium cordigerum (Cav.) C.Presl
    • Rapuntium fulgens (Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.) C.Presl
    • Rapuntium gramineum (Lam.) C.Presl
    • Rapuntium longifolium C.Presl
    • Rapuntium splendens (Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.) C.Presl
    • Tupa ignescens Payer

Lobelia cardinalis, the cardinal flower (syn. L. fulgens), is a species of flowering plant in the bellflower family Campanulaceae native to the Americas, from southeastern Canada south through the eastern and southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America to northern Colombia.[2]


It is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows up to 1.2 m (4 ft) tall and is found in wet places, streambanks, and swamps. The leaves are up to 20 cm (8 in) long and 5 cm (2 in) broad, lanceolate to oval, with a toothed margin. The flowers are usually vibrant red, deeply five-lobed, up to 4 cm across; they are produced in an erect raceme up to 70 cm (28 in) tall during the summer to fall. Forms with white (f. alba) and pink (f. rosea) flowers are also known.[3] It grows along streams, springs, swamps, and in low wooded areas.[4]

Lobelia cardinalis habit.jpg

Lobelia cardinalis is related to two other Lobelia species in to the Eastern United States, Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco) and Lobelia siphilitica (great lobelia); all display the characteristic "lip" petal near the opening of the flower and the "milky" liquid the plant excretes. L. siphilitica has blue flowers and is primarily pollinated by bees, whereas L. cardinalis is red and is primarily pollinated by the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris).[5]

Lobelia cardinalis on the bank of Ichetucknee River, Columbia Co., Florida.


It was introduced to Europe in the mid-1620s, where the name cardinal flower was in use by 1629, likely due to the similarity of the flower's color to the vesture of Roman Catholic Cardinals.[6]


In cultivation L. cardinalis requires rich, deep soil which remains reliably moist year-round. The cultivar 'Queen Victoria' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[7][8]

This plant is easily propagated by seed and dividing out the young plants which form around the older mature plants each year. Although the plant is generally considered a perennial, they may be short lived. They prefer moist soils in part shade.[9]

Medicinal and other uses[edit]

The Zuni people use this plant as an ingredient of "schumaakwe cakes" and used it externally for rheumatism and swelling.[10] The Penobscot people smoked the dried leaves as a substitute for tobacco. It may also have been chewed.[11]


As a member of the genus Lobelia, it is considered to be potentially toxic.[12] Symptoms of ingestion of large quantities include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, exhaustion and weakness, dilation of pupils, convulsions, and coma.[13] The plant contains a number of toxic alkaloids including lobelamine and lobeline.[13]


  1. ^ "Lobelia cardinalis L." Plants of the World Online. Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2017. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  2. ^ "Lobelia cardinalis". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  3. ^ Missouriplants: Lobelia cardinalis
  4. ^ "Lobelia cardinalis - Plant Finder". www.missouribotanicalgarden.org. Retrieved 2022-01-18.
  5. ^ Caruso, C. M.; Peterson, S. B.; Ridley, C. E. (2003), "Natural selection on floral traits of Lobelia (Lobeliaceae): spatial and temporal variation", American Journal of Botany, 90 (9): 1333–40, doi:10.3732/ajb.90.9.1333, PMID 21659233
  6. ^ Donaldson, C. (1999). Cardinal Flower – Spectacular Scarlet Blossoms That Hummingbirds Adore. Plants & Gardens News 14 (3). online at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Accessed 23 May 2006.
  7. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Lobelia cardinalis 'Queen Victoria'". Retrieved 2 October 2020.
  8. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 61. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  9. ^ Frances Tenenbaum (2003). Taylor's Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 244–. ISBN 0-618-22644-3.
  10. ^ Stevenson, Matilda Coxe 1915 Ethnobotany of the Zuni Indians. SI-BAE Annual Report #30 (p. 56)
  11. ^ Guédon, Marie-Françoise. Sacred Smudging in North America, Walkabout Press 2000
  12. ^ Foster, Steven and James A. Duke. Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants. Peterson Field Guides, Houghton, Mifflin 1990 edn. ISBN 0-395-92066-3
  13. ^ a b "Lobelia cardinalis". North Carolina State University Extension.