Perennial lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis) is a popular garden plant. Its blossoms are a striking scarlet shade held high above plum colored foliage. This lobelia grows up to three feet in height. Lobelia plants are often used around ponds, streams and other damp soil areas. They are native to North America. Lobelia attracts butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other beneficial insects. Other types of lobelia range in shades of pink, blue, red, purple and white.
Lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis) In Nature
Lobelia thrives in areas where the soil is moist. They are found growing in areas rich in organic matter such as beside streams, swamps and damp meadows throughout North America. Lobelia provides much needed nectar to hungry butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. Due to their attractive appearance and the fact that they attract welcome garden wildlife, they are often planted in people’s landscapes. Lobelia spreads by roots and seed dispersion.
Lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis) Culture Information
When provided with plenty of moisture and sun lobelia makes an attractive garden plant. It will bring various beneficial insects and other wildlife to the area. Seeds that are collected are planted in a seedling mix and when large enough are planted directly into a sunny and moist garden location. In areas with a long growing season, lobelia seeds can also be direct sown in the flowerbed. Gardeners typically pinch the top growth off to produce bushier plant growth.
When clumps grow too large they can be divided and replanted. Pests of lobelia include deer, aphids and spider mites. Lobelia is generally a pest resistant plant. Lobelia prefers cooler weather and will need protection from strong sun in hotter climates.
Lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis) Historic Uses
The Iroquois used lobelia to treat a myriad of illnesses such as cramps and sores caused by fever. Lobelia has also been used to treat typhoid fever and for ceremonial reasons.
Lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis) Modern Medicine
Doctors have also used lobelia (Lobelia inflata) to help people quit smoking and alleviate asthma symptoms. Other ailments treated with lobelia include bronchitis and coughing. The seeds and upper portions (above the soil) are used for medicinal purposes. Lobelia is available in liquid form, capsules as well as a tincture.
Lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis) and Others Warnings
Lobelia contains the toxin lobeline, which in large doses can cause poisoning. Symptoms of overdose include vomiting, pain, sweating, coma, quickened and weak pulse as well as death. Because of its toxic nature, lobelia should only be used under the close supervision of a doctor or professional herbalist.