For other uses, see Lobelia (disambiguation).

Lobelia /lɵˈbliə/[4] is a genus of flowering plants comprising 415 species,[5] with a subcosmopolitan distribution primarily in tropical to warm temperate regions of the world, a few species extending into cooler temperate regions.[6] They are known generally as lobelias.[7]


The genus Lobelia comprises a substantial number of large and small annual, perennial and shrubby species, hardy and tender, from a variety of habitats, in a range of colours. Many species appear totally dissimilar from each other. However, all have simple, alternate leaves and two-lipped tubular flowers, each with five lobes. The upper two lobes may be erect while the lower three lobes may be fanned out. Flowering is often abundant and the flower colour intense, hence their popularity as ornamental garden subjects.[8]


The genus is named after the Belgian botanist Matthias de Lobel (1538–1616).[6] Some botanists place the genus and its relatives in the separate family Lobeliaceae, others as a subfamily Lobelioideae within the Campanulaceae. The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group did not make a firm decision on this, listing the genus under both families.

Lobelia is probably the base form from which many other lobelioid genera are derived; it is therefore highly paraphyletic and not a good genus in a cladistic sense. For example, the Hawaiian species (see Hawaiian lobelioids), currently classified in several genera, originated from a single introduction to a now-submerged Hawaiian Island 15 million years ago, probably from an Asian Lobelia in Lobelia subg. Tupa.[9]


Lobelia species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the Setaceous Hebrew Character.

Cultivation and uses[edit]

Several species are cultivated as ornamental plants in gardens. These include Lobelia cardinalis syn. Lobelia fulgens (cardinal flower or Indian pink), Lobelia siphilitica (blue lobelia), and Lobelia erinus, which is used for edging and window boxes.[8]


Numerous hybrids have been produced, notably Lobelia × speciosa, a hybrid derived from L. fulgens, L. cardinalis & L. siphilitica. The term "fan hybrids" is also used.[10] This plant is borderline hardy and requires fertile, moist soil. It is suitable for summer bedding schemes or growing in containers. The following cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:-

  • L. × speciosa 'Fan Orchidrosa'[11]
  • L. × speciosa 'Fan Scharlach'[12]
  • L. × speciosa 'Fan Tiefrot'[13]
  • L. × speciosa 'Fan Zinnoberrosa'[14]
  • L. × speciosa 'Kompliment Scharlach'[15]
  • L. × speciosa 'Pink Elephant'[16]

Traditional medicine[edit]

Native Americans used lobelia to treat respiratory and muscle disorders, and as a purgative. The species used most commonly in modern herbalism is Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco).[17] However, there are adverse effects that limit the use of lobelia.[18]

Lobelia has been used as "asthmador" in Appalachian folk medicine[19]

Two species, L. siphilitica and L. cardinalis, were once considered a cure for syphilis.[20]

Herbalist Samuel Thomson popularized medicinal use of lobelia in the United States in the early 19th century, as well as other medicinal plants like goldenseal.[17]

One species, Lobelia chinensis (called bàn biān lián, in Chinese), is used as one of the fifty fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine.

Several studies show that lobeline—an alkaloid derived from lobelia—is ineffective in helping people to quit smoking.[21]

Chemical constituents[edit]

Extracts of Lobelia inflata contain lobeline, which can reverse P-glycoprotein-dependent drug resistance in certain tumor cell lines in vitro.[23] Lobelia chinensis contains apigenin, lobeline, lobelanine, isolobelanine, lobelanidine, quercetin, coumarins, glucosides and various flavonoids.[24][25][26]

Adverse effects[edit]

Because of its similarity to nicotine, the internal use of lobelia may be dangerous to susceptible populations, including children, pregnant women,[27] and individuals with cardiac disease. Excessive use will cause nausea and vomiting.[28] It is not recommended for use by pregnant women and is best administered by a practitioner qualified in its use. It also has a chemical known as lobellicyonycin,[citation needed] which may cause dizziness.


In the Victorian language of flowers, the lobelia symbolizes malevolence.[29]


Species include:[30][31]

Giant lobelias (Lobelia deckenii), Mount Kenya

Mexican spurred lobelias[edit]

About eleven species native to Mexico and Central America have spurs on the flowers. These spurred lobelias appear to form a monophyletic group. Most have been classified in the genera Heterotoma (or sometimes Calcaratolobelia). However, since their closest relatives such as Lobelia anatina are in Lobelia, Koopman and Ayers classify them in Lobelia.[34]

Partial list:

Formerly placed here[edit]

See also[edit]

  • Media related to Lobelia at Wikimedia Commons
  • Data related to Lobelia at Wikispecies


  1. ^ "Genus: Lobelia L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 1999-01-27. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  2. ^ lectotype designated by Hitchcock & Green, Nomenclature, Proposals by British Botanists 184 (1929)
  3. ^ Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  4. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  5. ^ Lammers, Thomas (1998). "Revision of the Infrageneric Classification of Lobelia L. (Campanulaceae: Lobelioideae)". Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 4: 109–149. 
  6. ^ a b Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  7. ^ Lobelia. USDA PLANTS.
  8. ^ a b RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964. 
  9. ^ Craig C. Buss; Thomas G. Lammers; Robert R. Wise; Craig C. Buss; Thomas G. Lammers; Robert R. Wise (2001). "Seed Coat Morphology and Its Systematic Implications in Cyanea and Other Genera of Lobelioideae (Campanulaceae)". American Journal of Botany 88 (7): 1301–1308. doi:10.2307/3558341. JSTOR 3558341. PMID 11454630. 
  10. ^ Paghat's Garden: "Fan Burgundy" Cardinal Flower
  11. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Lobelia x speciosa 'Fan Orchidrosa'". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  12. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Lobelia x speciosa 'Fan Scharlach'". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  13. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Lobelia x speciosa 'Fan Tiefrot'". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  14. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Lobelia x speciosa 'Fan Zinnoberrosa'". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  15. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Lobelia x speciosa 'Kompliment Scharlach'". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  16. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Lobelia x speciosa 'Pink Elephant'". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  17. ^ a b "Lobelia". EBSCO Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Review Board. January 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-12. 
  18. ^ "Risky pills: Supplements to avoid". Consumer reports 73 (1): 46–7. 2008. PMID 18488285. 
  19. ^ AJ Giannini, AE Slaby, MC Giannini. Handbook of Overdose and Detoxification Emergencies. New Hyde Park, NY Medical Examination Publishing,1982. Pp.53-56. ISBN 0-87488-182-X
  20. ^ Guédon, Marie-Françoise (2000). Sacred Smudging in North America. Walkabout Press.
  21. ^ Lancaster, T; Stead, L; Silagy, C; Sowden, A (2000). "Effectiveness of interventions to help people stop smoking: findings from the Cochrane Library". BMJ (Clinical research ed.) 321 (7257): 355–8. doi:10.1136/bmj.321.7257.355. PMC 1118332. PMID 10926597. 
  22. ^ Horton, D. B.; Siripurapu, K. B.; Zheng, G; Crooks, P. A.; Dwoskin, L. P. (2011). "Novel N-1,2-dihydroxypropyl analogs of lobelane inhibit vesicular monoamine transporter-2 function and methamphetamine-evoked dopamine release". Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 339 (1): 286–97. doi:10.1124/jpet.111.184770. PMC 3186287. PMID 21778282.  edit
  23. ^ Ma Y, Wink M (Sep 2008). "Lobeline, a piperidine alkaloid from Lobelia can reverse P-gp dependent multidrug resistance in tumor cells". Phytomedicine 15 (9): 754–8. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2007.11.028. PMID 18222670. 
  24. ^ Chen, J. X.; Huang, S. H.; Wang, Y; Shao, M; Ye, W. C. (2010). "Studies on the chemical constituents from Lobelia chinensis". Zhong yao cai = Zhongyaocai = Journal of Chinese medicinal materials 33 (11): 1721–4. PMID 21434431.  edit
  25. ^ Chen, M. W.; Chen, W. R.; Zhang, J. M.; Long, X. Y.; Wang, Y. T. (2014). "Lobelia chinensis: Chemical constituents and anticancer activity perspective". Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines 12 (2): 103–7. doi:10.1016/S1875-5364(14)60016-9. PMID 24636059.  edit
  26. ^ Yang, S; Shen, T; Zhao, L; Li, C; Zhang, Y; Lou, H; Ren, D (2014). "Chemical constituents of Lobelia chinensis". Fitoterapia 93: 168–74. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2014.01.007. PMID 24444893.  edit
  27. ^ Lobelia, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
  28. ^ Lobelia,
  29. ^ Diffenbaugh, V. Victoria's Dictionary of Flowers. Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, LLC. 2011.
  30. ^ a b "GRIN Species Records of Lobelia". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 1999-01-27. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  31. ^ "Lobelia". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. 
  32. ^
  33. ^ a b c d e World Checklist
  34. ^ a b Koopman, M. M.; Ayers, T. J. (2005). "Nectar spur evolution in the Mexican lobelias (Campanulaceae: Lobelioideae)". American Journal of Botany 92 (3): 558–62. doi:10.3732/ajb.92.3.558. PMID 21652434. 
  35. ^ Díaz, Sara C.; Touchan, Ramzi; Swetnam, Thomas W. (2001). "A tree-ring reconstruction of past precipitation for Baja California Sur, Mexico". International Journal of Climatology 21 (8): 1007. doi:10.1002/joc.664. 
  36. ^

Further reading[edit]

Everitt, J.H.; Lonard, R.L.; Little, C.R. (2007). Weeds in South Texas and Northern Mexico. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press. ISBN 0-89672-614-2. 

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Lobelia deckenii

Lobelia deckenii (syn. Lobelia keniensis) is a species of giant lobelia of the mountains of East Africa. It grows in moist areas, such as valley bottoms and moorland, in contrast to Lobelia telekii which grows in a similar, but drier habitat. These two species produce occasional hybrids. Lobelia deckenii plants usually produce multiple rosettes. Each rosette grows for several decades, produces a single large inflorescence and hundreds of thousands of seeds, then dies. Because it has multiple rosettes, it survives to reproduce repeatedly, and plants with more rosettes flower more frequently. It is iteroparous.[2]

Lobelia deckenii plants usually consist of between one and eighteen rosettes, connected underground. Individual rosettes grow slowly in the alpine environment.[2] Individual rosettes may take decades to reach reproductive size, then die after flowering, but the connected rosettes live on.[2]

Lobelia deckenii is the only alpine species of lobelia that lives on Kilimanjaro.[3] Kilimanjaro is commonly found in African-alpine zone, between 3800 meters to 4300 meters.[4]

Lobelia deckenii ssp. keniensis is the variety of Lobelia deckenii that lives on Mount Kenya, between 3,300m and 4,600m (10,800 - 15,100 ft). It is eaten less by rock hyrax than Lobelia telekii, which occurs more often in hyrax habitat. Lobelia species on Mount Kenya are all pollinated by birds,[5][6] especially the Scarlet-tufted Sunbird and the Alpine Chat.[7]

This species of giant lobelia is known for the reservoirs of water held in its rosettes, which freeze at night and protects the apical meristem held in a dense central leaf bud. When this reservoir is drained, the temperature of inner meristem drops below freezing, which does not occur when the fluid is left intact.[8] The crescent-shaped ice cubes formed in these rosettes give rise to the nickname, "Gin and tonic Lobelia".


  1. ^ International Plant Names Index
  2. ^ a b c Young, Truman P. (1984). "The comparative demography of semelparous Lobelia telekii and iteroparous Lobelia keniensis on Mount Kenya". Journal of Ecology 72 (2): 637–650. doi:10.2307/2260073. JSTOR 2260073. 
  3. ^ Young, T.P. 1991. The flora, fauna, and ecology of Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro. Pp. 37-49 In: Guide to Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro (Iain Allan, ed.) Mountain Club of Kenya ISBN 978-9966-9856-0-6
  4. ^ Kilimanjaro. O rei da África. Revista Planeta, dezembro de 2005.
  5. ^ Young, Truman P. (1982). "Bird visitation, seed set, and germination rates in two species of Lobelia on Mount Kenya". Ecology 68: 1983–1986. doi:10.2307/1940139. 
  6. ^ Burd, Martin (1995). "Pollinator behavioural responses to reward size in Lobelia deckenii: no escape from pollen limitation of seed set". Journal of Ecology 83: 865–872. doi:10.2307/2261423. 
  7. ^ Smith, Alan P.; Truman P. Young (1987). "Tropical Alpine Plant Ecology". Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 18: 137–158. doi:10.1146/ 
  8. ^ Young, Truman P.; Susan Van Orden Robe (1986). "Micro-environmental role of a secreted aqueous solution in afro-alpine Lobelia keniensis". Biotropica 18 (3): 267–269. doi:10.2307/2388496. JSTOR 2388496. 

External links[edit]

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