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Blue Lobelia and its gorgeous twin sister

Posted on Jun 26, 2006

Lobelia group of plants was named by Linnaeus for Matthias de l’Obel who was a Flemish botanist. He was a physician to England’s James I.

Cardinal flower is also known as the Red Lobelia. The wild flower is a member of the Lobelia Family. It is mostly found in Kansas, Gulf States and west. It flowers from July to September. It flowers mostly in these three months. It’s not too tough to plant this flower. Its seed are enough to get it planted. This wild red flower grows in streams, meadow runnels, ditches and low or wet ground. The plant does not branch out. It’s two feet tall initially but later it grows to become four and a half feet in length. Their leaves are somewhat jagged and can be of various shapes. They can either be lance-shaped or oblong. The plant mostly produces vermilion colored flowers though white or rose colored flowers can also be found. Its botanical name is Lobelia cardinalis.

The difference in color between Cardinal flower and Blue Lobelia was explained by Sir John Lubbock. He did various experiments and proved that blue is the favorite color of bees and the Blue Lobelia chose to flatter the bees as her benefactors. Bees love these blue flowers. All the red flowers in garden of the nature like trumpet flower, coral honeysuckle, cardinal, painted cups, Oswego Tea and columbines attract the humming bird. Other flowers which entice the humming bird are fuchsias, nasturtiums, phloxes, pelargonium, cannas, salvia, gladioli and verbenas.

The Blue Cardinal Flower or Great Lobelia is found from Ontario to Dakota. Southwards it’s found in Georgia and Kansas. Its botanical name is Lobelia syphilitica. It starts to flower in July and flowers till October. It grows well near the streams, in wet or moist soil. It produces flowers in different colors like bright blue or faded blue with a white tinge. The flowers are one inch in length and they sit on the summit of a straight, large leafy spine. The plant has a simple, stout, verdant and hairy look. The plant grows up to three feet. The leaves are pointed and oblong in shape. The leaves can be up to six inches in length and two inches in width. They are irregularly notched.

Lobelias have always attracted evolutionist because this flower provides some interesting connecting links. Their corolla is flattened and split on the upper side. This proves the inclination towards ray or strap flowers. Composites have confined these flowers for later development as against single tubular blossoms. Lobelias crowd along a stem and this serves to attract the bee which is passing by. The bee gets a large number of feeding places shut together.

It’s not fair to compare the cardinal flower with the Great lobelia though both are often compared and referred as twin sisters. Both the flowers belong to the Lobeliaceae family. Most men love red and hence it’s unfair to compare the great lobelia with its beautiful sister. The humming bird fertilizes red flowers including the Red Lobelia. The number of red flowers has declined over the years due to decrease in the number of humming birds. Bees love the blue lobelia though!

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