Plant of the Month — November 2006
Lobelia heterophylla Labill. — Wing-seeded Lobelia
Lobelia heterophylla is an erect, annual herb to 0.6m high. Its blue to purple flowers can be found throughout most of Western Australia, apart from the very north, from August to February. It is happy growing on red sand, sandy soils over limestone, in coastal areas and granite outcrops and dunes; its soil preferences are wide-ranging.
The name Lobelia refers to a large genus of herbs and sub-shrubs named for Mathias de l’Obel (1583–1616), Flemish botanist and physician to James I of England. The species name, heterophylla, comes from two Greek words: heteros meaning different or unequal and phyllon meaning leaf. The name tells what the picture does not show, that this small herb has differently shaped leaves which occur on the same plant. The genus Lobelia is characterized by a deeply-cleft corolla (floral whorl) and is famous for its beauty and colour, chiefly blue, scarlet or purple.
Lobelia heterophylla is one of fourteen species of Lobelia currently known to occur in WA and is one of the most striking. With its ability to make use of a wide range of soil types, the wonderful blue of this Lobelia would be a hightlight of any garden and is worth seeking from wildflower nurseries.
Photo: K.C. Richardson
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