(Lobelia inflata) Bellflower family

Flowers - Pale blue or violet, small, borne at short intervals in

spike-like leafy racemes. Calyx 5-parted, its awl-shaped lobes

1/4 in. long, or as long as the tubular, 2-lipped, 5-cleft,

corolla that opens to base of tube on upper side. Stamens, 5

united by their hairy anthers into a ring around the 2-lobed

style. Stem: From 1 to 3 feet high, hairy, very acrid, much

branched, leafy. Leaves: Alternate, oblong or ovate, toothed, the

upper ones acute, seated on stem; lower ones obtuse, petioled, to

2 1/2 in. long. Fruit: A much inflated, rounded, ribbed, many

seeded capsule.

Preferred Habitat - Dry fields and thickets; poor soil.

Flowering Season - July-November.

Distribution - Labrador westward to the Missouri River, south to

Arkansas and Georgia.

The most stupid of the lower animals knows enough to let this

poisonous, acrid plant alone; but not so man, who formerly made a

quack medicine from it in the days when a drug that set one's

internal organism on fire was supposed to be especially

beneficial. One taste of the plant gives a realizing sense of its

value as an emetic. How the red man enjoyed smoking and chewing

the bitter leaves, except for the drowsiness that followed, is a


On account of the smallness of its flowers and their scantiness,

the Indian tobacco is perhaps the least attractive of the

lobelias, none of which has so inflated a seed vessel, the

distinguishing characteristic of this common plant.