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Notwithstanding the common name, the foliage of Indian Tobacco should be neither chewed nor smoked as it is highly acrid and toxic. While Indian Tobacco is an annual, other Lobelia spp. (Lobelias) in Illinois are perennials with larger flowers. Indian Tobacco resembles Lobelia spicata (Pale-Spiked Lobelia), but the latter has slightly larger flowers (up to ½" long) and its stems have shorter hairs or they are glabrous. Another species, Lobelia kalmii (Kalm's Lobelia), occurs in various wetlands and is uncommon in Illinois. It has larger flowers, more narrow leaves, and lacks spreading hairs on its stems. Indian Tobacco is distinctive because its calyxes become conspicuously inflated from the developing seed capsules; this makes it relatively easy to identify. The calyxes of other Lobelias don't inflate after the corollas of their flowers have withered away.


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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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