(Lobelia syphilitica) Bellflower family

Flowers - Bright blue, touched with white, fading to pale blue,

about 1 in. long, borne on tall, erect, leafy spike. Calyx

5-parted, the lobes sharply cut, hairy. Corolla tubular, open to

base on one side, 2-lipped, irregularly 5-lobed, the petals

pronounced at maturity only. Stamens 5, united by their hairy

anthers into a tube around the style; larger anthers smooth.

Stem: 1 to 3 ft. high, stout, simple, leafy, slightly hairy.

Leaves: Alternate, oblong, tapering, pointed, irregularly

toothed, 2 to 6 in. long, 1/2 to 2 in. wide.

Preferred Habitat - Moist or wet soil; beside streams.

Flowering Season - July-October

Distribution - Ontario and northern United States west to Dakota,

south to Kansas and Georgia.

To the evolutionist, ever on the lookout for connecting links,

the lobelias form an interesting group, because their corolla,

slit down the upper side and somewhat flattened, shows the

beginning of the tendency toward the strap or ray flowers that

are nearly confined to the composites of much later development,

of course, than tubular single blossoms. Next to massing their

flowers in showy heads, as the composites do, the lobelias have

the almost equally advantageous plan of crowding theirs along a

stem so as to make a conspicuous advertisement to attract the

passing bee and to offer him the special inducement of numerous

feeding places close together.

The handsome GREAT LOBELIA, constantly and invidiously compared

with its gorgeous sister the cardinal flower, suffers unfairly.

When asked what his favorite color was, Eugene Field replied:

"Why, I like any color at all so long as it's red!" Most men, at

least, agree with him, and certainly hummingbirds do; our

scarcity of red flowers being due, we must believe, to the

scarcity of hummingbirds, which chiefly fertilize them. But how

bees love the blue blossoms!

There are many cases where the pistil of a flower necessarily

comes in contact with its own pollen, yet fertilization does not

take place, however improbable this may appear. Most orchids, for

example, are not susceptible to their own pollen. It would seem

as if our lobelia, in elevating its stigma through the ring

formed by the united anthers, must come in contact with some of

the pollen they have previously discharged from their tips, not

only on the bumblebee that shakes it out of them when he jars the

flower, but also within the tube. But when the anthers are

mature, the two lobes of the still immature stigma are pressed

together, and cannot be fertilized. Nevertheless, the hairy tips

of some of the anthers brush off the pollen grains that may have

lodged on the stigma as it passes through the ring in its ascent,

thus making surety doubly sure. Only after the stigma projects

beyond the ring of anthers does it expand its lobes, which are

now ready to receive pollen brought from another later flower by

the incoming bumblebee to which it is adapted.

Linnaeus named this group of plants for Matthias de l'Obel, a

Flemish botanist, or herbalist more likely, who became physician

to James I. of England.

Preferably in dry, sandy soil or in meadows, and over a wide

range, the slender, straight shoots of PALE SPIKED LOBELIA (L.

spicata) bloom early and throughout the summer months, the

inflorescence itself sometimes reaching a height of two feet. At

the base of the plant there is usually a tuft of broadly oblong

leaves; those higher up narrow first into spoon-shaped, then into

pointed, bracts, along the thick and gradually lengthened spike

of scattered bloom. The flowers are oft en pale enough to be

called white. Like their relatives, they first ripen their

anthers to prevent self-fertilization.

The lithe, graceful little BROOK LOBELIA (L. Kalmii), whose

light-blue flowers, at the end of thread-like footstems, form a

loose raceme, sways with a company of its fellows among the grass

on wet banks, beside meadow runnels and brooks, particularly in

limestone soil, from Nova Scotia to the Northwest Territory and

southward to New Jersey. It bears an insignificant capsule, not

inflated like the Indian tobacco's; and long, narrow,

spoon-shaped leaves. Twenty inches is the greatest height this

little plant may hope to attain.

Not only beside water, and in it, but often totally immersed,

grows the WATER LOBELIA or GLADIOLE (L. Dortmanna). The slender,

hollow, smooth stem rises from a submerged tuft of round, hollow,

fleshy leaves longitudinally divided by a partition, and bears at

the top a scattered array of pale-blue flowers from August to



GOLDTHREAD CANKERROOT [GOLDTHREAD] GREAT OR SPIKED WILLOWHERB FIREWEED facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail