Great Blue Lobelia

Photo copyright Pat MacGregor

Cycling on the back of a tandem offers a pleasant way to see the countryside. Yes, we do have to pedal, but we also do not have to pay strict attention to where we are heading. So I take the opportunity to sight-see, honing my ability to identify plants and animals at cruising speed.

It was along the North County Trailway two years ago that I first spotted a big patch of brilliant violet-blue and called out for my “captain” to pull the tandem over. Dismounting, I marveled over the blossoms of the Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), which I assumed must have been a garden escapee.

But, no. To my delight, when I checked my reference books I found this showy perennial is actually a native plant. Even better, I also found a few growing at Angle Fly Preserve.

The blossoms of the Great Blue Lobelia bear a passing resemblance to the garden snapdragon but the two plants are not related. The Great Blue Lobelia typically grows 1-4 feet tall and is a member of the Bellflower family, as is the scarlet red Cardinal Flower.

In New York State, it is listed as Exploitably Vulnerable, which means it could easily become threatened with extinction if we don’t protect it and the habitats it relies on. And, of course, we must restrain ourselves from picking it, so that its tiny seeds can mature and spread and we can see more beautiful Great Blue Lobelias at the end of summers to come.

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