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Lobelia erinus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Campanulaceae
Subfamily: Lobelioideae
Genus: Lobelia

See text.

Lobelia erinus
Giant Lobelias, Mount Kenya.

Lobelia (pronounced /lɵˈbiːliə/)[1] is a genus of flowering plant comprising 360–400 species, with a subcosmopolitan distribution primarily in tropical to warm temperate regions of the world, a few species extending into cooler temperate regions.[2] English names include Lobelia, Asthma Weed, Indian Tobacco, Pukeweed, and Vomitwort.

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 in 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. 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.[3] However, the group has not yet been studied adequately to rearrange the classification.

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

The genus is named after the Belgian botanist Matthias de Lobel (1538–1616).[2]


Selected species

  • Lobelia kalmii L. (Northern North America)
  • Lobelia laxiflora – Sierra Madre Lobelia
  • Lobelia leschenaultiana
  • Lobelia monostachya (Rock) Lammers (island of Oʻahu in Hawaiʻi)
  • Lobelia nicotianifolia
  • Lobelia niihauensis H.St.John (islands of (Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, and Oʻahu in Hawaiʻi)
  • Lobelia oahuensis Rock (island of Oʻahu in Hawaiʻi)
  • Lobelia persicifolia
  • Lobelia pratioides Benth. - Poison Lobelia (Australia)
  • Lobelia pinifolia
  • Lobelia puberula
  • Lobelia pyramidalis
  • Lobelia rhombifolia
  • Lobelia rosea
  • Lobelia sessilifolia
  • Lobelia siphilitica L. (Eastern and Central North America)
  • Lobelia spicata
  • Lobelia telekii Scwheinf (mountains of Uganda and Kenya)
  • Lobelia tenuior
  • Lobelia thapsoidea Schott (Southeastern Brazil)
  • Lobelia tupa L. (Central Chile)
  • Lobelia urens - Heath Lobelia
  • Lobelia valida
  • Lobelia zeylanica

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.[4]

Partial list:

  • Lobelia aurita (Heterotoma aurita). One of the most common understory plants in the Sierra de la Laguna pine-oak forests.[5]
  • Lobelia calcarata (Heterotoma lobelioides[6] or Lobelia lobelioides[4])
  • Lobelia cordifolia (Heterotoma cordifolia)[7]
  • Lobelia flexuosa (Heterotoma flexuosa)[7]
  • Lobelia mcvaughii[7]
  • Lobelia volcanica (Heterotoma tenella)[7]

Cultivation and uses

Several species are cultivated as ornamental plants in gardens. These include Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower or Indian Pink), Lobelia siphilitica (Blue Lobelia), Lobelia fulgens and Lobelia erinus, as well as some hybrids.

Lobelia erinus, a South African annual plant that includes many cultivated selections in a wide variety of colours. They are grown in beds, large pots, window boxes and in hanging baskets. The plants are most often grown away from sunny hot southern exposures (northern exposure's in the southern hemisphere) in soils that are moisture retentive.

In the Victorian language of flowers, the lobelia symbolizes malevolence and ill will.

Medicinal use

Native Americans used lobelia to treat respiratory and muscle disorders, and as a purgative. Today it is used to treat asthma and food poisoning, and is often used as part of smoking cessation programs. It is a physical relaxant, and can serve as a nerve depressant, easing tension and panic. The species used most commonly in modern herbalism is Lobelia inflata (Indian Tobacco).[8]

Extracts of Lobelia inflata contain lobeline, which showed positive effects in the treatment of multidrug-resistant tumor cells.[9] Furthermore, lobeline can be modified to lobelane which decreased methamphetamine self-administration in rats.[10] It therefore opens a perspective in methamphetamine dependency treatment.[11]

As used in North America, lobelia's medicinal properties include the following: emetic (induces vomiting), stimulant, antispasmodic, expectorant, diaphoretic, relaxant, nauseant, sedative, diuretic, and nervine. It has been used as "asthmador" in Appalachian folk medicine [12]

Because of its similarity to nicotine, the internal use of lobelia may be dangerous to susceptible populations, including children, pregnant women, and individuals with cardiac disease. Excessive use will cause nausea and vomiting. It is not recommended for use by pregnant women and is best administered by a practitioner qualified in its use. However, due to many undesirable side-effects, Mayo Clinic experts do not recommend the use of Lobelia for the treatment of any condition, including nicotine withdrawal.[13]

Two species, Lobelia siphilitica and Lobelia cardinalis, were considered a cure for syphilis[14].

Herbalist Samuel Thompson popularized medicinal use of lobelia in the United States in the early 19th century, as well as other medicinal plants like goldenseal.[8]

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


  1. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  2. ^ a b Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  3. ^ 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: 1301. doi:10.2307/3558341.  
  4. ^ a b Koopman, M. M. (2005). "Nectar spur evolution in the Mexican lobelias (Campanulaceae: Lobelioideae)". American Journal of Botany 92: 558. doi:10.3732/ajb.92.3.558.  
  5. ^ Díaz, Sara C. (2001). "A tree-ring reconstruction of past precipitation for Baja California Sur, Mexico". International Journal of Climatology 21: 1007. doi:10.1002/joc.664.  
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c d World Checklist
  8. ^ a b "Lobelia". EBSCO Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Review Board. January 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-12.  
  9. ^ 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.  
  10. ^ 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.  
  11. ^ Eine explosive Droge : Textarchiv : Berliner Zeitung Archiv
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ "Lobelia supplements: Can they curb nicotine cravings? -". Retrieved 2009-02-10.  
  14. ^ Guédon, Marie-Françoise (2000). Sacred Smudging in North America. Walkabout Press.

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.  

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LOBELIA, the typical genus of the tribe Lobelieae, of the order Campanulaceae, named after Matthias de Lobel, a native of Lille, botanist and physician to James I. It numbers about two hundred species, natives of nearly all the temperate and warmer regions of the world, excepting central and eastern Europe as well as western Asia. They are annual or perennial herbs or under-shrubs, rarely shrubby; remarkable arborescent forms are the tree-lobelias found at high elevations on the mountains of tropical Africa. Two species are British, L. Dortmanna (named by Linnaeus after Dortmann, a Dutch druggist), which occurs in gravelly mountain lakes; and L. urens, which is only found on heaths, &c., in Dorset and Cornwall. The genus is distinguished from Campanula by the irregular corona and completely united anthers, and by the excessive acridity of the milky juice. The species earliest described and figured appears to be L. cardinalis, under the name Trachelium americanum sive cardinalis planta, " the rich crimson cardinal's flower"; Parkinson (Paradises, 1629, p. 357) says, "it groweth neere the riuer of Canada, where the French plantation in America is seated." It is a native of the eastern United States. This and several other species are in cultivation as ornamental garden plants, e.g. the dwarf blue L. Erinus, from the Cape, which, with its numerous varieties, forms a familiar bedding plant. L. splendens and L. fulgens, growing from 1 to 2 ft. high, from Mexico, have scarlet flowers; L. Tupa, a Chilean perennial 6 to 8 ft. high, has reddish or scarlet flowers; L. tenuior with blue flowers is a recent acquisition to the greenhouse section, while L. amaena, from North America, as well as L. syphilitica and its hybrids, from Virginia, have also blue flowers. The last-named was introduced in 1665. The hybrids raised by crossing cardinalis, fulgens, splendens and syphilitica, constitute a fine group of fairly hardy and showy garden plants. Queen Victoria is a well-known variety, but there are now many others.

The Lobelia is familiar in gardens under two very different forms, that of the dwarf-tufted plants used for summer bedding, and that of the tall showy perennials. Of the former the best type is L. Erinus, growing from 4 to 6 in. high, with many slender stems, bearing through a long period a profusion of small but bright blue two-lipped flowers. The variety speciosa offers the best strain of the dwarf lobelias; but the varieties are being constantly superseded by new sorts. A good variety will reproduce itself sufficiently true from seed for ordinary flower borders, but to secure exact uniformity it is necessary to propagate from cuttings.

The herbaceous lobelias, of which L. fulgens may be taken as the type, may be called hardy except in so far as they suffer from damp in winter; they throw up a series of short rosette-like suckers round the base of the old flowering stem, and these sometimes, despite all the care taken of them, rot off during winter. The roots should either be taken up in autumn, and planted closely side by side in boxes of dry earth or ashes, these being set for the time they are dormant either in a cold frame or in any airy place in the greenhouse; or they may be left in the ground, in which case a brick or two should be put beside the plants, some coal ashes being first placed round them, and slates to protect the plants being laid over the bricks, one end resting on the earth beyond. About February they should be placed in a warm pit, and after a few days shaken out and the suckers parted, and potted singly into small pots of light rich earth. After being kept in the forcing pit until well established, they should be moved to a more airy greenhouse pit, and eventually to a cold frame preparatory to planting out. In the more favoured parts of the United Kingdom it is unnecessary to go to this trouble, as the plants are perfectly hardy; even in the suburbs of London they live for several years without protection except in very severe winters. They should have a loamy soil, well enriched with manure; and require copious waterings when they start into free growth. They may be raised from seeds, which, being very fine, require to be sown carefully; but they do not flower usually till the second year unless they are sown very early in heat.

The species Lobelia inflata, the "Indian tobacco" of North America, is used in medicine, the entire herb, dried and in flower, being employed. The species derives its specific name from its characteristic inflated capsules. It is somewhat irritant to the nostrils, and is possessed of a burning, acrid taste. The chief constituent is a volatile liquid alkaloid (cf. nicotine) named lobeline, which occurs to the extent of about 30%. This is a very pungent body, with a tobacco-like odour. It occurs in combination with lobelic acid and forms solid crystalline salts. The single preparation of this plant in the British Pharmacopeia is the Tinctura Lobeliae Ethereae, composed of five parts of spirits of ether to one of lobelia. The dose is 5 co 15 minims. The ether is employed in order to add to the efficacy of the drug in asthma, but a simple alcoholic tincture would be really preferable.

Lobelia has certain pharmacological resemblances to tobacco. It has no action upon the unbroken skin, but may be absorbed by it under suitable conditions. Taken internally in small doses, e.g. 5 minims of the tincture, it stimulates the peristaltic movements of the coecum and colon. In large doses it is a powerful gastrointestinal irritant, closely resembling tobacco, and causing giddiness, headache, nausea, vomiting, purging and extreme prostration, with clammy sweats and faltering rapid pulse. Its action on the circulation is very decided. The cardiac terminals of the vagus nerves are paralysed, the pulse being thus accelerated by loss of the normal inhibitory influence, and the blood-vessels being relaxed owing to paresis of the vasomotor centre. The blood-pressure thus falls very markedly. The respiratory centre is similarly depressed, death ensuing from this action. Lobelia is thus a typical respiratory poison. In less than toxic doses the motor terminals of the vagi in the bronchi and bronchioles are paralysed, thus causing relaxation of the bronchial muscles. It is doubtful whether lobelia affects the cerebrum directly. It is excreted by the kidneys and the skin, both of which it stimulates in its passage. In general terms the drug may be said to stimulate non-striped muscular fibres in small, and paralyse them in toxic doses.

Five minims of the tincture may be usefully prescribed to be taken night and morning in chronic constipation due to inertia of the lower part of the alimentary canal. In spasmodic (neurotic) asthma, and also in bronchitis accompanied by asthmatic spasm of the bronchioles, the tincture may be given in comparatively large doses (e.g. one drachm) every fifteen minutes until nausea is produced. Thereafter, whether successful or not in relieving the spasm, the administration of the drug must be stopped.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also lobelia


Wikispecies has information on:


Proper noun


  1. (botany) A taxonomic genus, within family Campanulaceae - the lobelias.


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Lobelia urens


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Asterids
Cladus: Euasterids II
Ordo: Asterales
Familia: Campanulaceae
Subfamilia: Lobelioideae
Genus: Lobelia
Species: L. aberdarica - L. anatina - L. anceps - L. appendiculata - L. assurgens - L. berlandieri - L. boykinii - L. deckenii - L. canbyi - L. cardinalis - L. chinensis - L. comosa - L. coronopifolia - L. dortmanna - L. erinus - L. flaccidifolia - L. flaccida - L. fulgens - L. gaudichaudii - L. gerardii - L. gibberoa - L. glaberrima - L. inflata - L. kalmii - L. laxiflora - L. leschenaultiana - L. monostachya - L. nicotianifolia - L. niihauensis - L. oahuensis - L. persicifolia - L. pinifolia - L. puberula - L. pyramidalis - L. rhombifolia - L. rosea - L. sessilifolia - L. siphilitica - L. spicata - L. tenuior - L. tupa - L. urens - L. valida - L. zeylanica


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