What is Lythrum?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

Several different herbal species make up the plant genus lythrum. More commonly known as loosestrife, lythrum is identifiable by its striking pink and vivid purple flowers. The erect herbs grow well around water and are sometimes present as an invasive species. Some varieties include European wand loosestrife, false grass-poly, and Spatulaleaf loosestrife.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Though some species of lythrum only grow up to 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 centimeters) in height, other varieties grow taller, up to 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 meters). Tall and thin, the woody-based stem may branch out into several thinner stems. A single lythrum plant may sprout 30 to 40 stems.

On most lythrum varieties, the central stem is covered with vibrant flowers arranged in groups of five to seven. These showy spikes are typically purple, though they can also be pink, magenta, or white. A cluster of stamens, usually twice the amount of the flower's petals, makes up the center of each flower. Leaves of the plant are dark green and broad, typically growing in parallel groups of two up each stem.

Propagation of this genus is considered to be a simple process. Seeds may be planted within containers as well as directly outside, preferably near a lake or other body of water. Seeding can be completed through a variety of methods, such as through a damp paper towel or a starter soil mix. Plants should be started prior to the year's first frost to avoid death.

When planing these perennial plants, seeds should be spaced 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 meters) apart. Full sun is best for optimal growing. The plants should not be allowed to dry, as they require a moist environment to live. Soil should continue to be moist even between watering.

The plant's bright blossoms bloom from mid-summer to late fall. Though the plants were first introduced to North America from Europe and Asia as a medicinal and ornamental plant, the genus has become an invasive species in many areas. In wetland areas in particular, the plants have forced out native species of vegetation, as well as the waterfowl who make such areas their home. Farmers have seen their crops die out due to the presence of lythrum as well.

Various insects are attracted to lythrum plants, and use them for food. The Engrailed, Emperor, and V-Pug moths may all flock to the plant for nourishment. Bees are also attracted to the flowers.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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