Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Shortleaf Lobelia - Lobelia brevifolia

Shortleaf lobelia (Lobelia brevifolia) occurs only in the central and western Panhandle portion of Florida and in portions of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.  Throughout its range, it is most often found in wet prairies, savannas, and pinelands. It is a diminutive member of this wonderful wildflower genus and goes mostly unnoticed during most months of the year.
Shortleaf lobelia is a deciduous perennial that dies to the ground each winter.  A small rosette of linear leaves emerges in the spring and the main stem begins to emerge by late spring.  Eventually, it reaches a mature height of about 2-3 feet.  As the common name implies, the leaves up the stem are very small.  
Flowering occurs in the fall.  The color varies from a very pale lavender to a richer tone and the lower lip is a bit more elongated than some other lobelias.  The calyx surrounding each bud is noticeably "armed" with recurved spines.  All of this makes this plant distinctive and easy to identify. 
Shortleaf lobelia has never been propagated in Florida to my knowledge and is not a likely candidate for such attention.  Although stands of this plant with blooms standing up out of the grasses make an attractive picture, its general short stature and small flowers are less showy that some other members of the genus.  Yet, it would make a nice addition to a moist savanna planting should the opportunity to add it arise.

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