Hummingbirds love it. So do I. If it was a Corvette Stingray, the color would be called Victory Red. It is a blazing, brilliant, red, not often seen in a native plant. In the picture above, you see a sweat bee, using a leaf as a resting spot on the Cardinal Flower’s, Lobelia cardinalis, landing strip of a leaf.
The blossoms are arranged in spikes, which are generally 2 to 4 feet. They open from the bottom up. The flower’s deep, tubular makeup creates a perfect flower for hummingbirds to pollinate.
The Cardinal Flower likes a moist place to call home. Whether a ditch along the roadside, or a streambank, its brilliant color calls to hummingbirds as well as butterflies to come pollinate it. In my garden, they are in a northwest facing garden, against the cabin, right at the base of a downspout. The plants love for the rain to spill down from the roof.
Some books and websites tell me that the plant is moderately, deer and rabbit resistant, but the rabbits that live in my woods haven’t read those books. They will occasionally take a chomp from a tempting sprout.
When neighbors at the bottom of the mountain maintain their yards to the hilt, cutting all growth in the ditch along the road, except for the alien lawn grasses, they remove the chance for these beautiful flowers to bloom. To attract hummingbirds. I’m pleased that some neighbors are not so fussy about their yards and leave the Cardinal Flower to grow. This year, there is more growing in this ditch than I have ever seen before.
This is the Cardinal Flower, before the buds have formed. This is what the plant looks like, just before the 4th of July. I take a deep breath, and try to remain calm as VDOT comes through, with their all consuming tractors, every year around the 4th of July. Cutting back all sorts of native plants that would bloom with glee if left alone. All in the name of safety. Cutting back the native plants.
The Cardinal Flower is a relatively common flower. Think twice about picking it though. It has become scarce in some areas due to people picking the flowers and bringing them home to their moms.
Though there are stories of Native Americans using parts of the Cardinal Flower plant for medicinal purposes, all parts of the plant are poisonous. Take pictures and leave the flowers for the hummingbirds and butterflies.