Lobelia inflata-Indian Tobacco, Etc

Lobelia inflata (Indian Tobacco) on 7-29-19, #608-23.

Indian Tobacco, Asthma Weed, Bladderpod, Gagroot, Pukeweed

Lobelia inflata

low-BEE-lee-a  in-FLAY-tuh

Synonyms of Lobelia inflataDortmanna inflata (L.) Kuntze, Lobelia inflata f. albiflora Moldenke, Lobelia inflata var. simplex Millsp., Lobelia michauxii Nutt., Rapuntium inflatum (L.) Mill., Rapuntium michauxii (Nutt.) C.Presl

Lobelia inflata L. is the correct and accepted scientific name for this species of Lobelia. It was named and described as such by Carl von Linnaeus in the second volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.

The genus, Lobelia Plum. ex L., was described by Mr. Linnaeus in the second volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum. He recognized Charles Plumier and gave him credit for the name and description.

Plants of the World Online still lists 438 accepted species in the Lobelia genus (as of 6-5-20 when I last updated this page). The genus is a member of the Campanulaceae Family which includes 88 genera. Those numbers could change and plant names are updated.

Distribution map of Lobelia inflata in North America from the USDA Plants Database. Retrieved on February 26, 2020.

The above distribution map for Lobelia inflata of North America is from the USDA Plants Database. The map on Plants of the World Online is slightly different and includes the species being introduced in Japan. It does not show it is found in British Columbia, Canada. Some species may only be found in limited areas.

There are more links at the bottom of the page for further reading and a better positive ID. 

Lobelia inflata (Indian Tobacco) on 7-29-19, #608-24.

I noticed this wildflower growing at the edge of the southeast pasture on July 29, 2019. I used to graze the southeast pasture but I have used it for hay the past couple of years. You would be surprised at the number of wildflowers I have observed since there are no cows eating them. The southeast corner of the farm is kind of swampy so it was fenced off by my dad several years ago. After the hay was cut in July, I was able to explore and take wildflower photos. I noticed only a few of these plants that turned out to be Lobelia inflata. Common names include Indian Tobacco, Asthma Weed, Bladderpod (or Bladderpod Lobelia), Gagroot, Pukeweed, and probably others.

Lobelia inflata is an annual wildflower that typically grows up to 2 1/2-3 feet tall. You can read information from the links below to get “technical” ID information but I will give it to you in layman’s terms.


Lobelia inflata (Indian Tobacco) on 7-29-19, #608-25.

The species name comes from the inflated seed pods as shown in the above photo.


Lobelia inflata (Indian Tobacco) on 7-29-19, #608-26.

Multiple flowers are loosely arranged within the inflorescence on the top of the plant’s stems. The weird thing is, the flowers are twisted on their pedicles (flower stalk) making them upsidedown (resupinate). So, the lower three petals are actually the top… Hmmm… Flowers are whitish with kind of a bluish tint.


Lobelia inflata (Indian Tobacco) on 7-29-19, #608-27.

The leaves are oblong-elliptic to elliptic, ovate, or obovate, tapered at the base depending on where they are on the plant. The margins are mostly sort of scalloped or bluntly toothed. The leaves are covered with fine hairs. The upper leaves are sessile (lacking a petiole) while the lower leaves may have short, winged petioles (stem between the main stem and base of the leaf).


Lobelia inflata (Indian Tobacco) on 7-29-19, #608-28.

The stems are quite hairy, especially toward the base, while the upper portion appears hairless (where the flowers are)


Lobelia inflata (Indian Tobacco) on 7-29-19, #608-29.

While this plant grows erect, they may lay down on the job (ascending). The lower portion of the stem is unbranched but moderately so toward the top. Leaves grow in an alternate fashion along the stems.


Lobelia inflata (Indian Tobacco) on 7-29-19, #608-30.

Although these plants flowers are very small, it packs an interesting medicinal history. Wikipedia says it was used by several Native American tribes to treat muscle and respiratory disorders, as a purgative, and as a ceremonial medicine. The leaves were burned by the Cherokee to smoke out gnats. It is still used in medicine today but it can have adverse side effects such as sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, rapid heartbeat, mental confusion, convulsions, hypothermia, coma, and possibly death. Possibly? The plant contains 52 different alkaloid compounds, most importantly lobeline.


Lobelia inflata (Indian Tobacco) on 7-29-19, #608-31.

The Lobelia inflata is a neat plant I hope to see more of. When you only find a few you never know if it will spread or not. It is weird I never saw it before 2019, but if you saw the location I found it in you would understand why…

My farm is located in Windsor, Missouri in Pettis County. Henry County is across the street and Benton and Johnson Counties are just a few miles away. This species is found in many counties in Missouri and can be found in bottomland forests to dry upland forests, banks of streams and ponds, pastures, fields, along railroads and roadsides, moist disturbed areas, and gardens.

I have enjoyed photographing and learning about the many wildflowers growing on the farm and other areas in west-central Missouri. I have grown over 500 different plants and most have pages listed on the right side of the blog. I am not an expert, botanist, or horticulturalist. I just like growing, photographing and writing about my experience. I rely on several websites for ID and a horticulturalist I contact if I cannot figure them out. Wildflowers can be somewhat variable from location to location, so sometimes it gets a bit confusing. If you see I have made an error, please let me know so I can correct what I have written.

I hope you found this page useful and be sure to check the links below for more information. They were written by experts and provide much more information. Some sites may not be up-to-date but they are always a work in progress. If you can, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Like” below and leave a comment. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. You can also send an email to me at thebelmontrooster@yahoo.com. I would enjoy hearing from you especially if you notice something is a bit whacky.