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Indian Pink, Perennial Wildflower

Yvonne writes about and photographs flora and fauna of Louisiana, sharing the knowledge she learned through study and personal experience.

Native Indian Pink

The bright blossoms add color to the landscape.

The bright blossoms add color to the landscape.

Pinkroot, Spigelia marilandica, Hummingbird favorite

Indian Pink, Spigelia marilandica is a "must have" native plant for the hummingbird garden. The gorgeous red tubular flowers with yellow star-shaped tips are filled with nectar and the hardy, perennial plants adapt to many shade to part sun conditions.

Pinkroot is lovely in a woodland setting or in a flower, wildflower or rain garden. Indian Pinks are another of the hardy, low maintenance southern native perennials that are perfect for sustainable landscaping.

Spigelia marilandica, My Favorite Native Perennial Wildflower

My most favorite perennial wildflower is Indian Pink, Spigelia marilandica. The common name comes from two sources. The Pink part refers to the sharply cut lobes of the flower face (like it was cut with pinking shears). The Indian part refers to the fact that it was a medicinal plant of the Native Americans. The name "pink root" refers to the part of the plant that was used medicinally.

I first discovered this red and yellow beauty one weekend when I was home from college and was taking a nature walk along the edge of the old cattle pen near the barn on our ranch in north Louisiana.

Then later, when we were looking for acreage in Covington, where we planned to retire, what helped us to decide which one to buy was when we drove up the driveway and we saw a Ruby-throated hummingbird dart over to drink from one of the many clusters of Indian Pinks on the property.

The long, tubular, nectar rich flowers are a favorite of hummingbirds. When you add the long blooming period and the fact that after the initial big flush of blooms in spring, they will bloom again during early summer, this plant is one that wildlife gardeners just must have. They are sometimes hard to find in the trade, but most native plant nurseries carry them.

Early spring flowers of Indian Pink attract hummingbirds and other pollinators.

Early spring flowers of Indian Pink attract hummingbirds and other pollinators.

Indian Pink History and Medicinal Use

One of the common names, Pinkroot, came from the fact that Native Americans used the pink colored roots as medicine to expell intestinal parisites. However this use has been discontinued because of the dangerous nature of the poisonous alkaline spigeline which is contained in the roots.

During the early 1900s the plant was almost gathered to extinction by disreputable pharmacologists who were trying to make a quick buck, but its poisonous nature saved it. Today the beautiful plants are still sometimes hard to find, but are currently being propagated and preserved by many native plant enthusiasts (like the Folsom Native Plant Society) and hummingbird gardeners.

Indian Pink and Daisy Fleabane

Two native wildflowers, Indian Pink and daisy fleabane.

Two native wildflowers, Indian Pink and daisy fleabane.

Growing Conditions and Propagation

This hardy perennial thrives in moist, well drained, rich acidic soil in shade to part sun. Indian Pinks forms clumps and look good in the woodland garden or in a flower bed. They will also grow well in rain gardens because in their natural state they grow in wet woodlands that experience seasonal flooding.

It blooms from March through June along with Oakleaf Hydrangea, downy phlox and wild Penstemons. The dead flower clusters can be trimmed to produce more blooms, but we prefer to let them go to seed so that more new plants will be produced. It is dormant in the late fall and winter.

Spigelia marilandica can be propagated from the dark brown, angled seed, but the seeds may take several months to germinate. They should be planted in good soil in trays or pots in the fall and must spend the winter outside. It can also be propagated from stem cuttings taken of new, but firm growth in early spring or after it blooms. The easiest way to propagate this plant is to divide the roots in fall or early spring.

Hummingbird Flowers

More about Indian Pink and also native butterfly weed.

A close up of the lovely yellow throat of Indian Pink.

A close up of the lovely yellow throat of Indian Pink.

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© 2009 Yvonne L B

We'd be tickled pink if you'd leave us a note.

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on September 25, 2014:

Thanks for the comment, OhMe. I hope it is Indian Pink. They are hard to find in nurseries.

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on September 25, 2014:

I think this is what we have in our yard and we just call it the Hummingbird plant. I will have to take a closer look and make sure. Enjoyed learning about this wildflower. Thanks.

Ilona E from Ohio on October 14, 2011:

My favorite too! And your lens is crafted so well it was a joy to read.

FarmerTom on July 18, 2011:

Great lens, awesome photos. I don't grow this plant but will have to give it a try. Thanks!

anonymous on December 22, 2010:

Lovely! Anything for our hummingbird friends!

Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on June 03, 2009:

Great job and beautiful, too....

Sojourn on June 03, 2009:

The colors on your lens alone make me feel like I just took a pleasant stroll through a beautiful garden. You did an amazing job! Factual, pretty, and easy to read. I hadn't heard of Indian Pinks before but they look wonderful. :)

anonymous on May 27, 2009:

Lovely job and a stunning flower!

ctavias0ffering1 on May 26, 2009:

Stunning lens as always 5*

religions7 on May 26, 2009:

Weird that they're called pink though :) but great lens as usual, blessed by a squidangel.

Linda Jo Martin from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on May 25, 2009:

Your Louisiana wildflowers are just spectacular! 5* and an angel blessing for this lens. I wish I could see some of these in person, but your photographs are amazing! Thanks for sharing this special treat with us. It must be the climate.

Dianne Loomos on May 25, 2009:

I love wildflowers and this one is beautiful! Beautiful lens as well.

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