Garden Blues

If you have boggy or moist areas in your garden, Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) is the plant for you. With its bright blue flowers (rare in the horticultural world),  this striking plant is a native New England perennial plant that grows naturally along streams and in wooded areas. Rich in nectar, hummingbirds and other pollinators are attracted to its flowers, and birds hang onto its tall stems snacking on the tiny seeds later in the year.

rudbeckia blue lobelia tomatoes IMG_0752 - Version 2A relative of our other native lobelia, Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), I have found Great Blue Lobelia to be the hardier of the two in my central MA garden. The photo above shows it growing on the edge of our farm pond.

Lobelia siphilitica, as its Latin name indicates, was used medicinally by Native Americans, who used it to treat Syphilis. In fact, Native Americans sold this secret to early European colonists who were desperate for a cure for the disease.  However, it has never been proven as an effective treatment for Syphilis, perhaps because Native Americans used it in conjunction with other native plants in their treatment.

According to the Plants for a Future database, some Native American tribes also used the finely ground roots of Great Blue Lobelia to calm the fury of arguing couples and prevent divorce. Whether it was successful in resolving marital difficulties is not clear, but as the roots can induce vomiting, therapy is probably a better bet.

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