~ The Great Blue Lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica ~
The Great Blue Lobelia is a native perennial that is typically found in rich, moist, cool locations along streams and wooded areas. It has many qualities that make it a valuable garden accent - extremely long blooming period (early July to late September), brilliant purplish-blue flowers it tight formation along a sturdy, 1 m tall stem that requires no staking, and is quite pest-free, perhaps owing to an alkaloid in its tissues called "lobeline." Rich with nectar, the Great Blue Lobelia attracts hummingbirds. All it asks from the gardener is more water than average.
It is propagated by seed, division or cuttings.
In the fall, scarlet tanagers (in their olive-green, non-breeding plumage) perch on the upright stems and acrobatically feast on the small, but abundant seed.
Does the latin name "siphilitica" remind you a veneral disease? You are not imagining. The name was coined because the native Americans used the plant to treat syphilis - in retrospect, it might have attenuated the symptoms syphilitic dementia, if unlikely to provide a cure. The lobeline produced by the plant is a putative phytoprotectant (to ward off predators) with pharmacological activity on mammalian brains where it may inhibit the behavioral effects of methamphetamine (Eyerman and Yamamoto, 2004) and may one day find a place in pharmacotherapy for psychostimulant abuse including smoking cessation (Harrod et al, 2004). There exists a considerable body of legitimate medical research that suggests that the effects of lobeline are being vigorously investigated by mainstream science.
Eyerman D. and Yamamoto B., 2004. Lobeline attenuates methamphetamine induced changes in VMAT-2 immunoreactivity and monoamine depletions in the striatum. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. E. pub ahead of print.
Harrod, SB, Dwoskin, LP and Bardo, MT. 2004. Lobeline produces conditioned taste avoidance in rats. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 78(1):1-5
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Great Lobelia Links
USDA Natural Resouces Conservation Service - Species profile in the US.|
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