Campanulacea / Bluebell
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Medical Uses: Potentially toxic, Lobelias contain several alkaloids principally lobeline. Native Americans had many medical uses for various Lobelias. The Cherokee used Cardinal Flower (L. cardinalis) to treat syphilis and the Iroquois used Great Blue Lobelia, (L. siphilitica) for the same purpose. Samples were sent back to England for testing by Sir William Johnson (Superintendent of Indian Affairs in North America from 1756 to 1774). Apparently the results of these tests were negative. Some Lobelias were known as "puke weeds" principally Indian Tobacco, Lobelia inflata which studies have shown may contain the greatest concentration of alkaloids and is considered deadly poison in sufficient quantities. Indians use the smoke to treat respiratory problems and it has been shown to be effective aganist asthma and is an ingredent in some cough medicines.(Dobelis) It's purgative effects have been used to expel worms. The plant has sedative effects and is so similar in some respects to nicotine that it is an ingredient in commercial "stop smoking" preparations.
Warning: All Lobelias should be consider toxic. There are data to suggest that the levels of the active alkaloids vary a great deal and early American doctors who used the plant medicanally found its action to be somewhat unpredictable. Some Lobelias have been used recreationally, smoked or as a tea to produce a euphoric effect. Users risk coma and death.
Similar Species: Cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis
Palespike Lobelia, Lobelia spicata
Downy Lobelia, Lobelia puberula
Gattinger's Lobelia, Lobelia appendiculata var. Gattingeri
Indian Tobacco, Lobelia inflata
Great Blue Lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica
One of the best general guides to wildflowers of the North Eastern and North Central United States. Newcomb's key is an excellent, simple method for identifying plants. Newcomb has drawings for almost every plant mentioned that are excellent aids to identifying the species. Though only the more common plants are covered this is often the first book I pick up when trying to identify a wildflower.
This is perhaps the best of many field guides covering this region. Featuring 446 excellent color photographs (located with the text) and mentioning as similar to those illustrated are another 800 or so species for a total coverage of over 1,200 species. The start of each family section includes line drawings of some of the species showing important features. The text includes the usual description, bloom season, range, habitat and additionally includes information such as medical uses and lore and how the species was named. This is the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society.
Angiosperms / Flowering Plants
Dicots / Two Seed Leaves