A Moving Tale of Burning Love

Burning Love

Burning love has blossomed near the zoo's small mammals and reptiles.

A Hunk, a Hunk of Burning Love

Springtime may be for lovers, but don’t forget about the plants. Lincoln Park Zoo’s Lychnis chalcedonica—more commonly known as burning love—is blooming now just outside Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House.

Perhaps Elvis would have been pleased to know this plant shares the same name as his famous song, “Burning Love.” The title is fitting: its vibrant burst of orangey-red flowers is held atop tall single stalks. In a mass grouping, burning love (also known as Maltese cross) lights up a garden and draws your attention right on in.

Mike Davenport, the zoo’s curator of horticulture, is especially pleased because he has been experimenting with the best location to grow this plant.  Last fall, Mike transplanted burning love from a dry, sunny area by the Kovler Lion House to its current wet, sunny ledge. Like all good gardeners, he became aware of the preferred conditions and adjusted the plant’s location accordingly.
Plant collection volunteers are assisting Mike in his efforts too. Volunteers Cary Overman and Rita Ryan weekly update the zoo’s plant database. They record which plants are on grounds as well as recent additions and help the staff research useful information. I’m very grateful for their assistance and thorough work. They have coalesced horticultural information recorded during the past two decades at the zoo in one resource—an astonishing effort over the past two years.
Delving into the database, we can tell you that burning love is in the Caryophyllaceae family and native throughout the United States and Canada. It typically blooms between July and August, which makes this year’s entrance a bit early. Lucky for us, burning love is a perennial. It grows year after year.

By Brian Houck • Published June 6, 2012

As Lincoln Park Zoo’s director of horticulture, Brian oversees the zoo’s gardens, from bud to bloom.

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