Our most common lobelia may also be our prettiest: Indian Tobacco


Indian Tobacco, our most common lobelia, though without any swollen seedpods. Could be too early or another lobelia I haven’t run across before, but I’ll stick with Indian tobacco, I think.

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Irregular, tubular flowers in racemes arising from leaf axils in the upper part of the plant; usually only 1 or 2 flowers are open on a raceme at a time. Flowers are pale blue or white, about 1/3 inch long. The lower lip is 3-lobed, the lobes pointed at the tip and all about the same size, the base yellowish with a tuft of white hairs. The upper lip is 2-lobed, the lobes mostly erect and smaller than the lower lobes. A curved style sits between the upper lobes. The calyx behind the flower has 5 narrow prong-like lobes.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are 2 to 3 inches long, ½ to 1½ inches wide, hairy, toothed around the edges, generally oval with a pointed tip and little to no leaf stalk, alternately attached. The stem is hairy to varying degrees and usually branched.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a globular capsule about 1/3 inch across, the calyx lobes projecting from the top. The inflated capsule is where the Latin name comes from.

[photo of seed] Inside the capsule are numerous tiny, oval, semi-translucent golden brown seeds. The surface is covered with a network of fine ridges and shiny scales.


Indian Tobacco is pretty easy to identify by the racemes arising from the leaf axils, and the inflated capsules. The Lobelia genus was once in its own Lobeliaceae family, then was moved to the Campanulaceae (Bellflower) family but is now back in Lobeliaceae

Author: luzerne2112

As I get older -- and I'm 70 now -- I seem to find more and more that nature is the true source of peace, inspiration and, most of all, the truth the passeth understanding. Though my knowledge is sketchy and superficial, I wanted to share it while I can.

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