Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
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  • Cardinal Flower

    SCIENTIFIC NAME: Lobelia cardinalis

    COMMON NAMES: Cardinal Flower

    BLOOM TIME: July, Aug, Sep

    Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie credit: R. Kapala


    • Unbranched 2-3 ½ ft. tall with central stem that can be densely hairy.
    • Alternate leaves are about 3 in. long and toothed.
    • Member of the belle flower family.
    • In late summer beautiful red blooms are spike-like, about 1 ½” long by 1”.
    • Blooms can be white occasionally .
    • Habitat: full sun & wet to moist conditions.
    • Has a reputation of being temperamental & short lived.
    • Likes pond borders, ditches, wet meadows & observed in most Illinois counties.
    • The Mesquackie crushed and dried plants to throw into wind for warding off approaching storms.
    • Also scattered over graves in final ceremonial rites.
    • Other tribes used a root tea for stomachaches, intestinal worms & a love potion.
    • Leaf tea used for colds, nosebleeds, fevers, & headaches.


    • Nectar of the flowers attracts the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird & various Swallowtail butterflies.
    • Larger bumblebees will steal nectar through slits in the tubular corolla.
    • Seeds are too small to be of much interest to birds.
    • Mammalian herbivores usually do not eat this plant because of the toxic white latex in the foliage.