This plant was a mystery for a long time.
I first noticed it in the spring of 2020, its purple leaves interspersed among the bee balm and goutweed at the north end of my vegetable garden near the garage. Where did it come from?
I initially thought it was purple lettuce that may have drifted from the opposite end of the garden in previous years and almost took a bite. But caution prevailed (which is why I’m still alive to tell the story) and I decided to let it grow so I could identify it.
By June it bloomed into this amazing plant with tiny yellow flowers that were absolutely striking against maroon-colored leaves. It was now easily identifiable as Purple Fringed Loosestrife.
But why was it only in that small area of the garden? I looked up and noticed that my clothesline was right overhead. So there were probably some birds who had feasted on the seeds elsewhere and sat on the clothesline (which they often do), chatting and pooping on my garden before flying off.
As a matter of fact, whenever I find a new arrival among the vegetables, it is almost always under the clothesline which extends the full length of garden.
The identification of the plant confused me for several reasons. Purple Loosestrife is a very invasive species from Eurasia with tall, purple spires. Fringed Yellow Loosestrife is native to most of North America and is not at all the same kind of plant despite the similar name. Purple Fringed Loosestrife is a “purpurea” cultivar (from the nursery trade) of the Fringed Loosestrife.
I kept the plant among the bee balm for now and will see about moving it next spring.
Cool discovery and a gift from the local birds!
And Now for the Science…
Purple Fringed Loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata var. purpurea) is an herbaceous perennial wildflower in the Primulaceae (primrose) family. The Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata) is native to North America across southern Canada and much of the U.S., including Alaska and most of the lower 48 states. The purple variety is a cultivar. It has an upright habit with little branching, purple leaves and star-shaped yellow flowers, with a spot of red at the petal base, that produce a floral oil, rather than pollen, which attracts pollinators.
TAXONOMY (“Purpurea” is a cultivar of Lysimachia ciliata)
Sources: Wikipedia, Shelterwood Gardens