Whorled Loosestrife

Lysimachia quadrifolia. Some wildflowers are known for their color, their size, shape, or scent. Whorled Loosestrife, however, might be best known for its display: It’s both elegant and symmetrical. The five-petaled blossoms are star-shaped and yellow, streaked with red especially near the centers — guides for approaching insects.  Each flower projects from the stalk on a long, thin but strong stem, from above each of four leaves, with each leaf usually growing exactly 90 degrees from two others. These layers of whorled leaves and flowers appear all along the two- to three-foot tall stalk, gaining the plant its other common name of Crosswort, and contributing to the botanic name, Lysimachia quadrifolia.  Lysimachia is Greek for “loose-strife.” Some authorities believe the plant was named for King Lysimachus of Sicily because he  used it for healing wounds gained in fighting — or strife.  Another theory says the king employed the herb to calm unruly animals, especially bulls. Seventeenth Century English herbalist John Parkinson wrote, “it is believed to take away strife or debate between ye beasts, not only those that are yoked together, but even those that are wild also, by making them tame and quiet.” Margaret Grieve, a more modern herbalist, added, “the plant appears to be obnoxious to gnats and flies, and so, no doubt, placing it under yoke, relieved the beasts of their tormentors, thus making them quiet and tractable.”  She recommended dried loosestrife be burnt in houses to get rid of gnats and flies. The perennial blooms in thickets and at the edges of woods during June and July throughout most of eastern North America.

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