If, as Bill Blass suggested, red is the ultimate cure for sadness, then it is time to say so long to your sorrows. Blooming cardinal flowers, Lobelia cardinalis, boldly and brashly banish the blues. Accolades for this flower flourish. In his journal, Henry David Thoreau declared, “It shows how far a little color can go; for the flower is not large, yet it makes itself seen from afar, and so answers the purpose for which it was colored completely. It is remarkable for its intensely brilliant scarlet color.” Nineteenth-century naturalist John Burrows concurred: “When vivid color is wanted, what can surpass or equal our cardinal flower? There is a glow about this flower as if color emanated from it as from a live coal.” A preponderance of plant people seemed to agree. In the late 1940s, the cardinal flower won first place in an American botanist poll of naturalists as the “showiest and most interesting wild herbaceous plant.” And Roger Tory Peterson announced it “America’s favorite” in his Field Guide to Wildflowers book.

And this flower clearly isn’t going out of style anytime soon, since contemporary author and botanist William Cullina, in Growing and Propagating Wildflowers, praised it this way: “It is hard to describe the intensity of a Cardinal Flower bloom. It is as if the flowers catch sunlight inside some sort of secret crystal matrix and let it bounce around for a while until it has been stripped of all but the deepest, purest red imaginable. Then and only then is the light released to burn crimson into our corneas.”

Cardinal flowers are blooming in wild places and gardens. Parsonage Pond in West Tisbury and the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank’s Wompesket Preserve are locales to look for this cardinal. Named for its intense color that matches the deep red of Roman Catholic cardinals’ robes, this bloom is more than just a pretty face.

While considered poisonous in large amounts, the consumption of special preparations can bring health and even love. A tea made from the roots of the plant has been reported as a remedy for conditions as divergent as stomach aches, syphilis, typhoid and even worms. Leaf tea had its own purported benefits, including fighting colds, croup, nosebleeds, rheumatism, aches and fevers. Most intriguing is it employment for finding love. Sprinkle a powder made from the roots on food as an aphrodisiac or use it to create charms or potions for your unsuspecting crush.

Another lover of this lobelia is the hummingbird, which is one of the lucky few that can reach and enjoy this unusually shaped flower. The blooming of the plant coincides with the migration of the hummers, and they will drink to their heart’s content to fuel up for their southern flight. Also count swallowtail butterflies among the swillers of the cardinal flower’s nectar cocktail. For some pollinators, it is impossible to imbibe as the long tubular flowers are just out of reach of their too-short tongues.

Whether as a feast for birds and butterflies or merely as a feast for the eyes, enjoying this crowd-pleasing bloom in its natural habitat every year should be the cardinal rule.

Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown, and author of Martha’s Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature and The Nature of Martha’s Vineyard.