(lii-si-maa' key-yah, lii-si-mah' key-yah)

Common name: Loosestrife

Family: Primrose family (Primulaceae, listed by some botanists under Myrsinaceae)

Height x width: 4-36" x 8-24" depending on species

Growth rate, habit: fast; generally root invasive spreading mass

Foliage: opposite or whorled, various with species

Flowers: yellow or white, midsummer, rounded or bell-shaped, single or in narrow racemes

Hardiness: zones 3 or 5 to 8 or 9, depending on species

Soil: moist, most, tolerates damp

Light: sun, part shade

Pests and Problems: leaf scorch from dry soil, mites, groundhog feeding

Landscape habit, uses: some species very root invasive and difficult to contain, masses in borders, slopes, damp areas (not near water as root pieces can be relocated, invading habitats), cut flower

Other interest: native to northern temperate areas depending on species; common name is a literal translation of the Greek word lysimachia which was named after King Lysimachus of Thrace. Legend has it that he waved a plant of it in front of a maddened beast to calm it; or as Gerard in his herbal of the middle ages wrote, it was used to calm angry oxen from putting it on their yokes "appeasing the strife and unrulinesse which falleth out among oxen at the plough..."

Other culture: see notes under landscape uses, will need dividing to try and contain yearly

Propagation: division, root or stem cuttings which root quite readily, seeds


Of the several species available in commerce, summarized in the table below, the following three are the most commonly seen.

clethroides (cleth-roy' dees)--Gooseneck Loosestrife, flowers ½" long in 6-18" raceme curved like a "goose neck", used as a cut flower in Europe, very invasive (photo courtesy Missouri Botanical Gardens plantfinder)

nummularia (nuu-muu-lair' ee-ah)--Creeping Jenny or Loosestrife, naturalized from Europe in eastern U.S. at woodland edges, rounded leaves, single fragrant flowers, stems along ground root readily

•punctata (punk-tah' tah)--Yellow Loosestrife, naturalized in eastern U.S. in moist shady areas hence often called "ditch weed", leaves whorled, flowers to 1" across and also whorled in upper leaf axils, flowers lemon yellow with brown throat, more weedy in south than north, very invasive
 Species zones height flowers habit native other
barystachys 5-8 18-24" white upright Asia terminal spike
ciliata 4-8 24-36" yellow upright N. Amer. hairy leaf margins
clethroides 3-8 24-36" white upright Asia arching flowers
congestiflora 7-8 4-8" yellow creeping China dense mats
ephemerum 7-8 24-36" white erect SW Eur. terminal raceme
fraseri 4-8 24-36" yellow upright N. Amer. syn. lanceolata
japonica 5-8 2-10" yellow creeping EurAsia good groundcover
nummularia 3-9 4-8" yellow creeping Europe naturalized grouncover
punctata 4-8 12-24" yellow upright EurAsia flowers up stem
vulgaris 4-8 12-24" yellow upright EurAsia terminal flowers


Cultivar species foliage, habit, other
'Alexander' punctata variegated, not spreading as species
'Aurea' nummularia lime green to yellowish leaves, less aggressive
'Firecracker' ciliata dark red leaves, long bloom, excellent
'Minutissima' japonica 1-2" tall, good between paving stones
'Purpurea':'Firecracker' ciliata  

('Alexander' photo courtesy Missouri Botanical Gardens plantfinder)

©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS123 course.

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