Index- plants in this Family
Campanulacea / Bluebell
Lobelia (Lobelia )
Plant Type: This is a herbaceous plant which can reach 152cm tall (60inches). The juice is milky.
Leaves: The leaves are alternate. Some species have toothed leaves and some entire.
Flowers: The flowers are irregular in shape . They are violet, blue or red sometimes white. Blooms first appear in early summer and continue into mid fall. The flowers are in a terminal spike opening from bottom to top. Each flower has two lips. The upper lip is divided into two pointed parts and the lower into three. The split in the upper lip continues down the flower tube and a fused tube consisting of the style surrounded by the stamens protrudes from this slit.

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Lobelias once were in there own family, Lobeliaceae. The flowers (described above) are quite unique and often very showy. Identification to the species level often involves measuring the length of the flower and noting details of the base of the flower.

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

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More Info:  
The Search below may provide more information about this species. Some of URLs may have been used as a source for this page not otherwise cited. Most of the information not cited comes from multiple sources that can be found in the Books page. The USDA plant links are provided by: USDA, NRCS 1999. The PLANTS database ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. You can check species names at ITIS Advanced Search to see if they meet the current ITIS taxonomic criteria.

By: Newcomb, Lawrence and Illustrated by Morrison, Gordon. 1977, Little, Brown and Company, ISBN:0-316-60442-9

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.

Wildflo wers of Tennessee the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians
By: Dennis Horn and Tavia Cathcart and Thomas E. Hemmerly and David Duhl. , ISBN:1551054280

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



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