Saturday, March 26, 2016

Bay Lobelia - Lobelia feayana

This diminutive member of the Lobelia genus, bay lobelia (L. feayana) is common throughout much of Florida, yet endemic to the state. It is a common roadside plant, most often occurring in ditches and depressions in large masses that paint the medians and road shoulders a rich lavender in spring and early summer.  This is a plant indicative of moist soils.
Bay lobelia is a perennial that spreads by underground stems. The basal leaves (not pictured here) are 1/4-1/2 inch long and often difficult to find as this plant twines around and through other ground covers in areas frequently mowed. Even when not subjected to mowing, bay lobelia rarely stands taller than about 12-18 inches.
Like all members of this genus, the flowers are composed of five petals, the two on the top are thin and upright while the three lower petals form a broader lip. A distinct white patch is present in the middle, near the reproductive parts. Lobelias are mostly bee pollinated.
Though commonly encountered, bay lobelia is not currently propagated by nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. Its small size limits its appeal as a landscape plant and its need for soil moisture limits the type of site it would prosper in.  This plant is sometimes confused with another common roadside plant with light lavender flowers - Canadian toadflax (Linaria canadensis), though the two are quite distinct on closer examination.

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