Of the more than 370 different flower species I’ve seen in the last two years, this is the only one that is truly, unequivocally, red. So very red, I practically squeaked upon seeing it. So very red, I actually beached the kayak and got out to take some photos (in the shade, in a strong, steady breeze).
So very red, you’ll be forgiven for thinking I tinkered with the colors in processing (I didn’t).
This stand of plants was right by the water, under the woodland canopy – exactly the habitat it prefers (wet with some shade). I explored every little cove and rock outcrop (okay, not every one) between Fletcher’s Boathouse and Chain Bridge, on both shorelines (DC and Virginia), and saw no others.
Cardinal flower is found all over the continental US, except for parts of the northern Great Plains and the Pacific Northwest. It’s listed as “salvage restricted” in Arizona, is threatened in Florida, and is exploitably vulnerable in New York.