When I wrote about cardinal flower in late August Carol Smith remarked, “By now my cardinal flower is finished blooming. Yesterday we saw three hummers at one time sipping nectar from great blue lobelia flowers. Even though they aren’t red, they are apparently a good nectar source and … they bloom a little later. “
Perhaps the hummingbirds saw the flowers’ resemblance. Great lobelia or great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) is in the same genus as cardinal flower. The plants are a similar height and the flowers a similar shape.
Great lobelia grows in medium to wet soil so it tolerates drier locations than cardinal flower. The blue one will grow in a drainage ditch by the trail; the red one always has wet feet.
I don’t have to bushwhack to get close to great lobelia. I took this photo while standing above the plant.
Notice how the flowers spiral around the stem — another example of the Fibonacci sequence that I wrote about this week.
Big and blue this lobelia is great.
(photos of great lobelia by Kate St. John; cardinal flower by Tim Vechter)