Skip to main content

A splash of late color

Most of the flowering plants have withered away, with a few notable exceptions. We're getting ready to enter the long months of winter, a period lacking in blooms save the odd weed pushing forth a flower in some sheltered spot. Thus, it was nice to encounter two species of Lobelia looking good the other day; sort of a botanical finale.

Cardinal-flower, Lobelia cardinalis, is in the foreground, and (this wasn't posed) right behind it was Great Blue Lobelia, L. siphilitica. Darn good looking plants, both of them.

Believe it or not, these species somewhat regularly hybridize, or at least there are a number of records of the cross. Enough so that the spawn of these species has a name: Lobelia x speciosa. I've never seen this hybrid, but would like to. Seems like the two in the above photo have had their chance, but we didn't see anything out of the ordinary in the vicinity.

All manner of plants have long been used medicinally, and still are. Often, their names - especially the scientific names - indicate these uses. In the case of Great Blue Lobelia, it is purported to be a curative for siphilis, hence its formal name Lobelia siphilitica.

Lobelias contain an alkaloid called lobeline, which is sort of a watered-down nicotine. It is probably responsible for reports of improved mental clarity, happiness, and overall good feelings by those who ingest small doses. Unless you really know what you are doing, though, I wouldn't fool with consuming Lobelias or any other wild plant. Take too much, or misidentify and eat the wrong stuff, and the consequences can be dire.


Randy Mitchell said…
I really love your blog!
I am a biologist at the University of Akron. I would like to contact you to ask a question (but since I haven't managed to find an email address for you, I am doing it here on an old but relevant post- I hope that's not a problem).
I am aiming to do some research on pollinator movements between Mimulus ringens and Lobelia siphilitica. I'd like to find sites that have both species reasonably near to one another; ideally interspersed.
Do any likely sites come to mind for this?

Randy Mitchell
rjm2 at uakron dot edu
Jim McCormac said…
Thanks Randy and sorry for the tardy reply. Tough to keep up with all the ways of correspondence these days. No site such as you seek immediately comes to mind, but I would think that searching wooded riparian corridors nearly anywhere would produce fodder. I'm sure I've seen those two in close proximity in times past. Perhaps the Upper Cuyahoga would produce them.

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…