FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Rhexia virginica is an upright perennial wildflower with thick bright green oval leaves. In summer stems are topped by loose cymes of showy pink flowers. The blooms have four spreading petals and prominent bright yellow anthers. Unique urn shaped seed capsules follow. Plants prosper in sun or filtered shade with wet, moist or average soils.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Rhexia virginica occurs in Nova Scotia, Ontario and in the eastern United States from Maine to Florida and west to Wisconsin and Texas.
Plants are generally found in high quality habitats in various types of sandy wetlands. They are indigenous to swamps, marshes, thickets, wet to moist sand prairies, savannas, banks of ponds and lakes, ditches, wet sandstone depressions and gravelly seeps.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 5-8.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Rhexia virginica is an upright perennial wildflower that grows from tuberous swellings on fibrous roots.
Stems are light green to purplish with glandular hairs. They are 4-angled with narrow wings and are clad in pairs of opposite sessile leaves.
The bright green blades are about 3” long and 1” wide with prominent longitudinal veins. They have small sharp teeth and hairs along the margin.
In summer showy pink outfacing flowers emerge from red bristly buds. The flowers are shallowly saucer shaped and about 1½” across. They have 4 rounded petals and 8 yellow-orange anthers. Blooming occurs from summer to early autumn.
Each flower produces a capsule full of tiny seed. The capsule is concealed inside the flower’s persistent urn shaped calyx. The unique calyx looks like a tiny narrow necked red to purple vase.
Plants average 2’ tall with a 1-2’ spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Rhexia virginica prospers in sunny sites with moist sandy or gravelly acidic soil. Plants tolerate light shade, wet swampy conditions and humusy soils that contain sphagnum moss.
Foliage is nibbled by slugs and browsed by deer.
Since plants reproduce primarily by seeding, unwanted seedlings may be an issue in manicured gardens.
LANDSCAPE USES: This species offers Showy Blooms when used as an Accent, Grouping or Mass in Rain Gardens, Wildlife Gardens or Perennial Borders. Rhexia virginica is appropriate for Low Maintenance Plantings, moist Meadows, Bog Gardens, margins of Water Gardens, and soggy Roadsides.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Rhexia virginica with Asclepias incarnata, Anemone canadensis, Carex comosa, Chelone glabra, Eupatorium perfoliatum or Osmunda cinnamomea.
Lobelia siphiltica could be substituted due to comparable cultural needs and similar growth habit.
TRIVIA: Rhexia virginica is a member of the large Melastomataceae family. Most other members of this family are exotic tropicals.
Rhexia virginica flowers are nectarless - offering only pollen to insect visitors. The pollen is sequestered inside bright yellow anthers and is released by buzz pollination of bumblebees and other solitary bees. When bumblebees are attracted by the pollen-like color, they rough up the anthers to dislodge and release pollen through a small pore. This is accomplished when Miss Bumblebee latches onto a flower and rapidly moves her thoracic flight muscles to vibrate the anthers. Each flower is receptive for only a day making pollination totally dependent on that day’s bumblebee activity. When the day is over and flowers are no longer receptive, the anthers change color. Only around 8% of the world’s flowers are buzz pollinated.
For more information on this plant, visit the USDA PLANTS Database: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=rhvi