Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Description
This common urban plant reaches a height of 6 inches to 6 feet. One of its most distinguishing characteristics are the intense red flowers that bloom on spikes up to 8-inches long.
Life History
These plants survive Texas' hot dry summer by living in wet shady areas. In the winter they die back to a circular ring of leaves called a basal rosette. These leaves are resistant to cold and allow the plant to continue to produce and store food. Cardinal flowers reproduce when stems are partially buried. New plants grow where the buried leaves are attached to the stems. Although the cardinal flower is a perennial, meaning it lives more than two years, it is short-lived. Its size varies according to environmental conditions.

Cardinal flowers are quite uncommon. They are specially modified so that they can only be pollinated by hummingbirds. The vivid red flowers bloom in the fall at the same time that hummingbirds embark on their migration south. Hummingbirds are attracted to the blooms' bright color and abundant nectar, and carry the pollen long distances from flower to flower and ensure the plant's survival.
Habitat
Cardinal flowers grow tallest and flower best in wet, partially sunny areas.
Distribution
This plant is uncommon along waterways throughout the state of Texas except in the Valley. It is found in wet shady areas throughout most of the U.S.
Other
Legend has it that the scarlet-red flower was named for the red robes worn by cardinals in the Catholic Church. Although native to North America, it's been cultivated in Europe since the 1600s for its lovely flower. One legend claims that touching the root of this plant will bring love to the lives of elderly women!

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