Swamp candles—a marvelously appropriate name—sport their ghostly flames along the edges
of fresh water, including lakes, swamps, ponds, and seasonally wet areas. They are North American
Plants: 9-36" (22-91 cm) tall, on unbranched or sparingly-branched
stems. Stems are light green, with a circular cross section, and smooth.
Leaves: Usually opposite, dotted, 1¼-4" (3.2-10 cm) × ¼-¾" (6.3-19 mm), linear to elliptic,
and entire. Leaf tops are hairless; bottoms are paler green and sometimes hairy. Leaves may have no
petiole (leaf stem), or a short one.
Flowers: Flowers are the identifying feature of swamp candles,
arranged in a near-perfect cylindrical raceme 4-12" (10-30 cm) long, facing outward in all directions, flowering from the
bottom up, like a flame racing up a dry plant. Each flower is a five-pointed yellow star, ½-¾" (1.3-1.9 cm) around,
with five stamens and a green ovary with a single style. There are two red spots at the base of each petal.
Flowers appear from June to August.
Fruits: Fruits are pocked with small depressions, and ¹/₁₆-⅛" (3-3.5 mm) in length. This plant produces curious bublets, segmented red “fruits” at leaf axils, resembling
little red hairless caterpillars. I cannot find any credible information on the purpose of the bulblets.