The loosestrife plant is in the lythrum genus, and is a member of the lythraceae family. These plants – which are native to areas of northwest Africa, southeastern Australia, Asia and Europe – are often confused with members of the lysimachia genus. Although both plants are considered aggressive in their growth habits, their similarities end there. Also known as the purple loosestrife and the spiked loosestrife, these herbaceous perennials are most commonly recognized for their flowers, which burst forth from erect stems. These stems are a muddy red and green in shade, woody, and 4-angled. The flowers themselves contain tightly clustered heads that are made up of five to six purple-red petals, and ten to twelve stamens per head. The foliage is downy, lanceolate, and forms in whorls of three.
The loosestrife plant made its first appearance in North America during the beginning of the 1800s. Early American settlers brought the plant from Europe not only as an ornamental, but also for its uses in medicine. Since then, however, this plant has become something of a nuisance. Although the loosestrife plant grows in abundance throughout the United States, it is most frequently seen growing in wetland areas, where it is tends to compete – and generally choke out – native flora, which also interferes with the nutrition and shelter of a number of fish and wildlife species. When loosestrifes get a foothold they are often hard to get rid of, which is why several biologists in the mid-1980s began to research the possibility of biological control. It was thought that over 100 insects were known to feed off of these plants, and between 1987 and 1991, these insects were exposed to several varieties of loosestrife. In 1992, five types of beetles were considered safe to release throughout the United States and Canada. Although only a few of these species were released in each area, the biologist’s hope was that – in the long run – the loosestrife would be cut down by 80%. Despite the fact that growing these plants in an outdoor garden is frowned upon, they are still sometimes grown in containers as ornamental and medicinal plants. As a folk remedy loosestrifes are thought to make for an excellent astringent, and potent curative for stomach ailments.
Though the loosestrife plant does not carry a good deal of symbolism on its own, it is not hard to associate it with determination and a strong will. Because of this, these plants are sometimes given to someone heading towards a new path in life, someone overcoming an illness, or a couple determined to make their relationship work. Loosestrifes can be given as potted plants; however, arrangements made up of their blossoms are the preferred method of presentation.