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

Flower of the Day: Indian Tobacco

aka pukeweed; Lobelia inflata; Campanulaceae (bellflower family)


This eastern North American native forb grows to about three feet tall in partly sunny areas with moist soils. The flowers are about 1/3″ wide.  The internet is full of interesting claims about the medicinal uses of this plant; some sources simply state that it’s poisonous and shouldn’t be used at all, while others note its use by Native Americans for a variety of purposes, including treatment of respiratory ailments, as an emetic, and as an entheogenic (go ahead and click, I had to look it up, too).

For more on medicinal uses, including current practices, check out the University of Maryland Medical Center page.

The next photo shows what I call the “five foot view”: this is what I see when walking along (my eyes being about five feet above ground level).


One little spot of color and I’m down on my knees having a closer look. Shame about all the Japanese stiltgrass, though.