Seeing Red

The continuing discoveries of a 21st century artist and naturalist …

The next several ‘discovery’ posts will be less about plants with similar characteristics and more about their common color.  Today we will look at the red wildflowers and plants in shades of red.

As an artist color I see nuances of color all around me but these flowers would be noticeable to anyone with their red-flag-look-at-me colors.

Cardinal Flower

Family:  Campanulaceae; Subfamily:  Lobelioideae; Genus: Lobelia; Species: cardinalis

American indians used this flower’s root as an ingredient in ‘love potions’ however, the plant is toxic and the extent of toxicity is not known. As an import from Europe the flower’s common name is known to have been used as far back as 1692 and likely due to the similarity of color to Roman Catholic Cardinals attire.  It is known to be pollinated by the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird rather than bees.

Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flowers

Cardinal Flowers


Male Red Throated Hummingbird at Rest

Male Red Throated Hummingbird at Rest



















Bee Balm (a.k.a. Oswego Tea)

Family:  Lamiaceae; Subfamily:  Nepetoideae; Genus:  Monarda;  Species:  didyma

This lovely red flower belongs to the mint family.  American Indians used the leaf to make tea to treat colic, gas, colds, fevers, stomach-aches, insomnia, nose bleeds, and heart-trouble among other things; poultice was used for headaches.

The plant was named for the Spanish botanist Nicholas Monardes who wrote a book in 1574 describing plants of the New World.  The common name of Bee Balm comes from the flowers’ ability to attract bees of all kinds.


Crimson Bee Balm - Monarda didyma Multi-Petal Blossom

Crimson Bee Balm – Monarda didyma Multi-Petal Blossom

Crimson Bee Balm - Monarda didyma Sunlit

Crimson Bee Balm – Monarda didyma Sunlit








Wake Robin – (Trillium Erectum)

Family:  Melanthiaceae; Genus: Trillium; Species:  erectum

The name Trillium refers to the trio of petal and sepals on the flower.  It is also called Berthroot (from birth root) because American Indians used the root tea to aid in childbirth.  Physicians once used the tea for diabetes.

Wake Robin Sunlit

Wake Robin Sunlit

"Wake Robin - Trillium Erectum" Photography

“Wake Robin – Trillium Erectum”









Red Baneberry

Family:  Ranunculaceae; Genus:  Actaea; Species:  rubra

However lovely and enticing the berries may be this plant is poisonous.  If ingested may cause not only vomiting but also gastroenteritis, irregular breathing and delirium; enjoy the lovely red berries visually only.

Red Baneberry

Red Baneberry







Partridge Berry

Family:  Rubiaceae; Genus:  Mitchella; Species:  repens

Each flower produces a single berry that lasts over winter.   American Indian women made a tea from the berries and leaves which was consumed during childbirth (which is where it gets the other common name of Squaw Vine).  It is a non-climbing vine and is closely related to cranberries.  According to the USDA its fruit “is eaten by ruffed grouse, northern bobwhite, sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chicken….[and] by raccoons and the red fox.”

It was once collected for Christmas decorations and was a threatened species due to that activity.  Such a seemingly innocuous activity is another way in which we may negatively impact our environment.

Partridge Berry Patch

Partridge Berry Patch

Partridge Berries - Peeking Out

Partridge Berries – Peeking Out

Partridge Berry - Squaw Vine

Partridge Berry – Squaw Vine

Two Partridgeberry Blossoms

Two Partridgeberry Blossoms

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