Posted in Seeds

Why Latin names matter #2 – Lobelia

If you’re trying to plant natives, Latin names matter.  I finally got around to finishing the first of this series I had started writing earlier this year, but I did back date it because the bulk of it was written by February–I just wanted to make sure of all references.

At any rate, we went to our local Agway the other day to try to fill the gap left by waiting too long to get seeds.  I did have a list with me, but I did not note all the Latin names to be sure to get local natives.  Welp…I messed up.  I bought a seed packet of Lobelia (Lobelia erinus) which turned out to be an introduced variant.  Argh!  It’s not the end of the world, but at this point I should know better.

Darn you, desire for more purple!
Yes, I made notes on the envelope after I started checking the seeds I bought.

What should I have bought?  Any one of the following, listed by common name first, with the Latin name after in italics:

  • Cardinalflower Lobelia cardinalis
  • Dortmann’s cardinalflower Lobelia dortmanna
  • Indian-tobacco Lobelia inflata
  • Ontario lobelia Lobelia kalmii
  • great blue lobelia Lobelia siphilitica
  • palespike lobelia Lobelia spicata Lam. var. campanulata McVaugh

If you go to the Plants page on the USDA site and look up all the Lobelia entries, you can see which ones are native to your area or not.  You’ll also see that variant names can matter as well, such as I found where there is another palespike lobelia that is not native to here: Lobelia spicata Lam. var. hirtella A. Gray.

What makes me laugh at myself is they had the Cardinalflower, but I was looking for more purple/blue flowers, so I picked the erinus.  Ah well, lesson learned.




Care to share thoughts on this?