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loosestrife, common name for the Lythraceae, a widely distributed family of plants most abundant as woody shrubs in the American tropics but including also herbaceous species (chiefly of temperate zones) and some trees. Several shrubs of this family have been introduced in the United States as ornamentals and are now naturalized, e.g., the crape (or crepe) myrtle of China (Lagerstroemia indica) and the henna shrub, or mignonette tree (Lawsonia inermis). The latter, cultivated especially in Muslim countries, is the source of henna dye (from the leaves), oil and pomade scents (from the flowers), and a medicament (from the bark). The wild marsh plants called loosestrifes (genus Lythrum) include several native American species with pink or lavender flowers, but the tall, showy species that blankets moist meadows and swamps with magenta to purple flowers in late summer and autumn is the spiked loosestrife (L. salicaria), introduced from Europe and now so widespread as to be a weed. Several species of the unrelated family Primulaceae (primrose family) are also called loosestrife. True loosestrife is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Myrtales.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Lysimachia), a genus of herbaceous plants, predominantly perennials, of the family Primulaceae. There are approximately 150 species (by other data, up to 200), mainly in the temperate regions almost everywhere on the terrestrial globe, especially in Eastern Asia and North America. In the USSR there are more than ten species. Most frequently found (in moist places) are the common loosestrife (L. vulgaris), a tall plant, up to 1.25 m high, with yellow flowers in paniculate racemes; and the moneywort, so-called meadow tea (L. nummularia). A dye is extracted from the common loosestrife that is used for dying wool yellow, brown, or black.



(Lythrum ), a genus of annual or perennial grasses and certain low bushes of the family Lythraceae. The leaves are elongated. The flowers are purple or rose, the cup tubular with six inner and six outer tines, four to six petals, and two to 12 stamens. The fruit is a pod.

There are approximately 30 species in the world and 14 in the USSR. The most common is purple loosestrife (L. salicaria ), which grows in damp meadows, on shores, and in moist thickets. It is also a weed in rice fields. Loosestrife contains tannic substances and is also a good nectar bearer.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.