August Flora Spotlight:
Great Blue Lobelia, Lobelia
Great Blue Lobelia
Great Blue Lobelia is in the Campanulaceae; Bellflower Family. This native clump-forming
perennial features light to dark blue tubular, 2-lipped flowers with the three lobes of the lower
lip appearing more prominent than the two lobes of the upper lip. Dense flowers bloom from
the upper leaf axils on short stiff leafy stalks. The height of the plant is typically 2-3' tall.
Great Blue Lobelia typically grows in moist to wet locations along streams, springs, swamps,
meadows and in low wooded areas. Like its counterpart the Cardinal Flower,
Lobelia cardinalis. it is easily grown in rich, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade.
To propagate, divide the clumps in spring, Great Blue Lobelia can also be propagated by
collecting the seeds in mid-September to November. Experts suggest a seed
treatment of moist stratification for 2 months at 40 degrees. Scratch the seed slightly in the soil. Keep
Great Blue Lobelia is recognized by pollination ecologists as attracting large numbers of native
bees. It supports conservation biological control: a plant that attracts predatory or parasitoid
insects that prey upon pest insects. It also attracts hummingbirds and butterflies and has no serious
disease or insect problems. This plant is important for the environment.
The Latin species name indicates that it was once thought that Great Lobelia was a cure for
syphilis. The Native Americans used Lobelia as an analgesic and as a treatment for many
other common ailments. Another use was as a cold infusion of the roots to treat nosebleeds.
A poultice of crusted leaves was used for headaches and a warm leaf infusion