So Unbelievably Blue


great blue lobelia
Lobelia siphilitica


Here’s a cousin of yesterday’s unbelievably red flower.  Like the cardinal flower, great blue lobelia is a plant of wet places.  This single plant was growing right at the water’s edge near Fletcher’s Clove in the lower Potomac Gorge (in Washington, DC.).  I looked all around for others, by boat and on foot, but this was the only plant I could find.

Getting good pictures of it was darn near impossible.  I could only get so close in the kayak, there was no place to land, and the sun was in a less-than-ideal position.



seen from the water, mid afternoon


When I went back a few days later to try from the shore, I still couldn’t get close: the bank was too steep, I couldn’t maneuver to different positions, and the sun was, again, not cooperating.





the very same plant, seen from the land three days later, early afternoon


Great blue lobelia is found in the US and Canada from the east coast to the Great Plains.  It’s listed as possibly extirpated in Maine, endangered in Massachusetts, and exploitably vulnerable in New York.

Twenty seven native species of lobelia can be found in the US, eight of which occur in Maryland*.  One of these, Indian tobacco, is fairly common in the Carderock-Marsden Tract area.


*per the Maryland Biodiversity website

So Unbelievably Red


cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis


Of the more than 370 different flower species I’ve seen in the last two years, this is the only one that is truly, unequivocally, red.  So very red, I practically squeaked upon seeing it.  So very red, I actually beached the kayak and got out to take some photos (in the shade, in a strong, steady breeze).

So very red, you’ll be forgiven for thinking I tinkered with the colors in processing (I didn’t).


This stand of plants was right by the water, under the woodland canopy – exactly the habitat it prefers (wet with some shade).  I explored every little cove and rock outcrop (okay, not every one) between Fletcher’s Boathouse and Chain Bridge, on both shorelines (DC and Virginia), and saw no others.

Cardinal flower is found all over the continental US, except for parts of the northern Great Plains and the Pacific Northwest.  It’s listed as “salvage restricted” in Arizona, is threatened in Florida, and is exploitably vulnerable in New York.