Blue Lobelia

Lobelia siphilitica Campanulaceae

Other names

Great Lobelia, Blue Cardinal Flower

Growth habit




Native distribution

Native to the Finger Lakes Region, ME to SD, South to NC, MS, and KS


A 2-3' tall biennial with blue or white flowers.
Light: sun to light shade
Moisture and Soil: moist to wet soil


Seed Treatment and Storage: sow at 70 degrees OR give 90 days cold/moist stratification; needs light to germinate –sow on top of soil.

Biocultural value

The Iroquois used the roots in combination with other plants to make a strong tea to treat venereal disease.
The Cherokee used blue lobelia for a wide range of medicinal applications, including as a remedy for headaches, worms, rheumatism, fever, and syphilis. The Haudenosaunee prescribed an infusion of the smashed plant to fight bewitchment and used it as a gargle for coughs. The Meskwaki valued blue lobelia as medicine to end quarrels among couples and renew their love.

Wildlife value

Great blue lobelia is typically pollinated by bumble bees (Bombus spp.). Digger bees (Anthophora spp.), also collect nectar from the flowers, while yellow-faced bees (Hylaeus spp.), green sweat bees (Augochlorini tribe) and small carpenter bees (Ceratina spp.) visit great blue lobelia for both pollen and nectar. Pink-washed looper moth (Enigmogramma basigera) larvae eat the leaves and weevels (Cleopomiarus hispidulus) feed on the seeds. Most mammalian herbivores avoid blue lobelia's toxic foliage, although deer have been seen browsing on it.



Poisonous description

Lobelia contains a host of toxic alkaloids, including many with structural similarities to nicotine. Overdoses of the plant induce vomiting, sweating, pain, paralysis, low temperature, rapid but feeble pulse, collapse, coma, and even death.


Robison Herb Garden, Mundy Wildflower Garden, Coy Glen, Edwards Lake Cliffs Preserve, Fischer Old-growth Forest, McLean Bogs, Eames Bog, Salt Road Fen

Source of plant

Richters, Ridge House Gardens, Bluemount Nurseries


Leafy rosettes above which rise erect stems well set with clear blue flowers for many weeks. Plants 3'tall, 1' wide; summer blooming.

USDA Hardiness Zone


Special characteristics