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File:Lobelia laxiflora flower.jpg
Lobelia laxiflora
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Campanulaceae
Subfamily: Lobelioideae
Genus: Lobelia

See text.


Enchysia C.Presl
Haynaldia Kanitz
Isolobus A.DC.
Laurentia Adans.
Mezleria C.Presl
Neowimmeria O.Deg. & I.Deg.
Parastranthus G.Don
Rapuntium Mill.
Tupa G.Don[1]

Lobelia /lɵˈbliə/[2] is a genus of flowering plants comprising 415 species,[3] with a subcosmopolitan distribution primarily in tropical to warm temperate regions of the world, a few species extending into cooler temperate regions.[4] They are known generally as lobelias.[5]


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 2-lipped tubular flowers, each with 5 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.[6]


The genus is named after the Belgian botanist Matthias de Lobel (1538–1616).[4] 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.Template:NonspecificTemplate:Or For example, the Hawaiian species (see Hawaiian lobelioids) originated from a single introduction to Hawaii 15 million years ago, probably from an Asian Lobelia in Lobelia subg. Tupa.[7] However, the group has not yet been studied adequately to rearrange the classification.[citation needed]


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

Cultivation and uses

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.[6]


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.[8] 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'[9]
  • L. × speciosa 'Fan Scharlach'[10]
  • L. × speciosa 'Fan Tiefrot'[11]
  • L. × speciosa 'Fan Zinnoberrosa'[12]
  • L. × speciosa 'Kompliment Scharlach'[13]
  • L. × speciosa 'Pink Elephant'[14]

Traditional medicine

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).[15] However, there are adverse effects that limit the use of lobelia.[16]

Lobelia has been used as "asthmador" in Appalachian folk medicine[17]

Two species, L. siphilitica and L. cardinalis, were once considered a cure for syphilis.[18]

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.[15]

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.[19]

Chemical constituents

Extracts of Lobelia inflata contain lobeline, which showed positive effects in the treatment of multidrug-resistant tumor cells in vitro.[20] Furthermore, lobeline can be modified to lobelane which decreased methamphetamine self-administration in rats.[21] It therefore opens a perspective in methamphetamine dependency treatment.[22]

Adverse effects

Because of its similarity to nicotine, the internal use of lobelia may be dangerous to susceptible populations, including children, pregnant women,[23] and individuals with cardiac disease. Excessive use will cause nausea and vomiting.[24] 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, which may cause dizziness.


In the Victorian language of flowers, the lobelia symbolizes malevolence.[25]


Species include:[26][27]

Giant lobelias (Lobelia deckenii), Mount Kenya

Mexican spurred lobelias

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.[29]

Partial list:

Formerly placed here

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Genus: Lobelia L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 1999-01-27. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  2. Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  3. Lammers, Thomas (1998). "Revision of the Infrageneric Classification of Lobelia L. (Campanulaceae: Lobelioideae)". Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 4: 109–149. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  5. Lobelia. USDA PLANTS.
  6. 6.0 6.1 RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. pp. 1136. ISBN 1405332964. 
  7. 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. PMID 11454630. 
  8. Paghat's Garden: "Fan Burgundy" Cardinal Flower
  9. "RHS Plant Selector - Lobelia x speciosa 'Fan Orchidrosa'". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  10. "RHS Plant Selector - Lobelia x speciosa 'Fan Scharlach'". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  11. "RHS Plant Selector - Lobelia x speciosa 'Fan Tiefrot'". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  12. "RHS Plant Selector - Lobelia x speciosa 'Fan Zinnoberrosa'". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  13. "RHS Plant Selector - Lobelia x speciosa 'Kompliment Scharlach'". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  14. "RHS Plant Selector - Lobelia x speciosa 'Pink Elephant'". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Lobelia". EBSCO Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Review Board. January 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-12. 
  16. "Risky pills: Supplements to avoid". Consumer reports 73 (1): 46–7. 2008. PMID 18488285. 
  17. 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
  18. Guédon, Marie-Françoise (2000). Sacred Smudging in North America. Walkabout Press.
  19. 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. PMID 10926597Template:Inconsistent citations 
  20. 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. 
  21. Neugebauer NM, Harrod SB, Stairs DJ, Crooks PA, Dwoskin LP, Bardo MT (Sep 2007). "Lobelane decreases methamphetamine self-administration in rats". Eur J Pharmacol. 571 (1): 33–8. doi:10.1016/j.ejphar.2007.06.003. PMID 17612524. 
  22. Eine explosive Droge : Textarchiv : Berliner Zeitung Archiv
  23. Lobelia, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
  24. Lobelia,
  25. Diffenbaugh, V. Victoria's Dictionary of Flowers. Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, LLC. 2011.
  26. 26.0 26.1 "GRIN Species Records of Lobelia". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 1999-01-27. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  27. "Lobelia". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 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. 
  30. 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. 
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 32.3 World Checklist

Further reading

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.