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Plants of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

The oldest public wildflower garden in the United States

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Common Name
Fringed Loosestrife

 

Scientific Name
Lysimachia ciliata L.

 

Plant Family
Myrsine (Myrsinaceae)

Garden Location
Woodland

 

Prime Season
Early to Late Summer Flowering

 

 

Fringed Loosestrife is a plant that tolerates shady areas. This tall erect native perennial, growing 1 to 4 feet high on smooth stems is sometimes branched near the top.

The leaves are opposite, egg shaped to lanceolate, and on stalks that have a slight wing and fine hair on the stalk and stem node. The leaf surface is not dotted.

The inflorescence consists of solitary flowers on long stalks rising from the upper leaf axils - not necessarily in a whorl.

The flowers are five-part up to 1 inch wide, are on long stalks and solitary from the leaf axils, somewhat nodding, and the yellow corolla is deeply lobed into 5 petals that are spreading, thin, not streaked, and at the tip have a point, or tooth; the green sepals of the calyx are narrow, spreading, and have 3 to 5 parallel reddish-brown veins. Sepals are much shorter than the petals. The corolla petals join to a reddish eye at the center. The five stamens have yellow filaments and anthers, are shorter than the corolla and alternate with infertile stamens (staminodes). The ovary is green with a green style.

Seed: At maturity a single round smooth capsule is formed with the sepals persistent. It turns brown at maturity and opens into five sections. Seeds require 60 days of cold stratification for germination.

 

Habitat: Fringed Loosestrife is a plant of moist woodlands and meadows with wet-mesic to memic moisture conditions. It flowers sun to shade, best in light shade, and grows from slender rhizomes. It will tolerate full sunlight if plenty of moisture is available. Numerous plants will be found along Violet Way in the Woodland Garden blooming in early July.

Names: Fringed Loosestrife was formerly slotted into the Primrose family (Primulaceae), but the change to Myrsine is explained at the page bottom. The genus name is from the Greek for either king Lysimachus or from lysis meaning "a release from" and mache is for "strife". The legend is that Lysimachus, king of Sicily, was walking through a field. A bull chased him. He grabbed a loosestrife plant, waved it in front of the bull and it calmed the bull. In general then, both the common and the generic name refers to a supposed power to sooth animals or "loose" them of their "strife". The species, ciliata, means 'fringed with hairs' as are the leaf stalks and stem nodes of this Loosestrife. The author name for the plant classification - 'L.' is for Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy.

Comparisons: A close relative that grows in the Upland Garden is Whorled Loosestrife, Lysimachia quadrifolia L., where the leaves are in a whorl and the flower corolla is sightly different and the flowers don't nod.

See bottom of page for notes on the Garden's planting history, distribution in Minnesota and North America, lore and other references.

Fringed Loosestrife Fringed Loosestrife

Above & Below: The yellow lobes of the corolla deeply divided into 5 petals that are spreading, thin, not streaked, and at the tip have a point, or tooth

Below: 2nd photo - The green sepals of the flower with the characteristic parallel reddish-brown veins.

Flower Fringed Loosestrife Sepals

Below: 1st photo - Five stamens alternate with 5 infertile stamens and surround the ovary with its yellow-green style. 2nd photo - Seed capsules of late August.

Stamens Fringed Loosestrife Berry

Below: 1st photo - Lower leaves can be long and linear while upper leaves (photo above) are more ovate. 2nd photo - The leaf stalks have fine hair, especially where they meet the stem.

leaf Stem hair

Notes:

Notes: Fringed Loosestrife is indigenous to the Garden area. Eloise Butler catalogued it on May 8, 1910. On that date she was planting several of these plants that she obtained in Osceola, WI when she discovered that it was not only indigenous but abundant in the Garden. On Sept. 15, 1919 she found some near the Belt-line Bridge and brought them in. In her day and in her record the botanical name was Steironema cilatum. The plant is native to Minnesota in nearly all counties. In North America it is found throughout the lower Canadian Provinces and most states of the U.S. except CA, AZ, NV and LA.

Family Change: Fringed Loosestrife is one of 8 species of Lysimachia found in Minnesota, listed currently by DNR. Seven are native, one is introduced. Several others have been reported but with little data. Based on recent scientific work, some of the leading references have moved most Lysimachia species into another plant family - Myrsinaceae, following the lead of Flora of North America, on the basis of resin canals among other considerations. The U of M Annotated Checklist of the Vascular Flora of Minnesota (Ref.#28C) follows this classification.

Lore: As explained above, the common perception that the plant has soothing powers over animals led people to tie a branch to the yolk of oxen, making them easier to handle. The plant is known to repel gnats and other irritating insects which maybe explains why the animals were easier to handle. Pliny the elder wrote that the odor of loosestrife would keep snakes away.

References and site links

References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.

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