This herbaceous perennial plant is ¾–3' tall, producing erect leafy
stems that are either unbranched or sparingly branched below the
inflorescence. The central stem and any lateral stems are light green,
glabrous, and terete (circular in cross-section). Pairs of opposite
leaves occur along the entire length of these stems, except at the
base of the central stem. Small scale-like leaves occur along the lower
central stem, otherwise the leaves are 1¼–4" long and ¼–¾" across.
These latter leaves are elliptic in shape; their margins are entire
(toothless) and slightly revolute (curved downward). The upper leaf
surface is medium green and glabrous, while the lower leaf surface is
light-medium green and either glabrous or glaucous. Leaf venation is
pinnate with a prominent central vein and obscure lateral veins. The
leaves are sessile or they are short-petiolate (petioles up to ¼" in
length). The central stem usually terminates in an erect raceme of
flowers that is 4-12" long. On rare occasions, 1-2 upper lateral stem
also terminate in shorter racemes of flowers. Flowers are distributed
with moderate density along the entire length of each narrow raceme,
facing in all directions.
Each flower is about ½–¾" across, consisting
of a light green calyx with 5 deep lobes, a yellow corolla with 5 deep
lobes, 5 stamens, and a green ovary with a single style. The lobes of
the calyx are lanceolate to ovate in shape, glabrous, and about
one-third of the length of the corolla's lobes. The petaloid lobes of
the corolla are elliptic-oblong in shape; they have pairs of small
patches at their bases. The stamens have white filaments that are
joined together at their bases by a ring-like structure that is light
green. The outer side of this structure, the lower corolla
lobes (facing outward), and filaments are glandular-oily. The slender
pedicels of the flowers are ½–¾" long, light green, either glabrous
or appressed-pubescent, and slightly to moderately ascending.
Sometimes, instead of flowers, this plant produces aerial bulblets in
the axils of the upper leaves during the summer. These bulblets are up
to ½" long, ovoid in shape, and reddish brown; they eventually detach
from the mother plant and fall to the ground. The flowers bloom during
early to mid-summer, lasting about 2-4 weeks for a colony of plants.
Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by ovoid seed capsules that are
3-4 mm. long. These capsules are few-seeded. Individual seeds are quite
small (about 1–1.5 mm. in length). The root system is rhizomatous.
Clonal plants are produced from either the rhizomes or bulblets.
The preference is full or partial sun and wet to moist conditions;
different kinds of soil are tolerated. The easiest method of
propagation is by bulblets or the division of rhizomes, rather than
The native Swamp Candles is found
primarily in the northern half of Illinois, where it is uncommon (see
Habitats consist of various wetlands, including
marshes, swamps, low areas along ponds and streams, fens, and bogs.
This plant is normally found in high quality natural areas.
The flowers of Lysimachia spp.
attract Melittid bees,
which collect floral oil and pollen for their larvae. In Illinois,
appears to be the most common Melittid bee.
Other bees, particularly small Halictid bees, also visit the flowers
occasionally to collect pollen. Information about floral-faunal
relationships about Swamp Candles is rather limited, however some
insects are known to feed on this plant. These insects include the
larvae of a sawfly (Monostegia
), a weevil (Acallodes
), the Poplar Vagabond Gall Aphid (Mordwilkoja vagabunda
and the polyphagous Foxglove Aphid (Aulacorthum
); see Price
(1970), Fall (1913), and Blackman & Eastop (2013).
A fen in Fayette County, Illinois.
photographs were taken by Keith and Patty Horn (Copyright ©
This is one of the more attractive Lysimachia
because the flowers
are more conspicuous and less likely to be hidden by foliage. Species
in this genus are highly unusual because their flowers produce floral
oil, rather than nectar. Swamp Candles (Lysimachia terrestris
distinguished from other native Lysimachia
by its showy racemes of
flowers; usually the latter produce flowers from the axils of their
leaves. A non-native species, Lysimachia
Loosestrife), also produces showy racemes of flowers, but its leaves
are usually whorled and more broad, while the petaloid lobes of its
flowers are more broad and overlapping than those of Swamp Candles.
Swamp Candles occasionally hybridizes with 2 other Lysimachia spp.
producing plants with intermediate characteristics. These naturally
occurring hybrids include Lysimachia
crossed with Lysimachia
) and Lysimachia
crossed with Lysimachia
common names of Lysimachia
include Earth Loosestrife and Swamp