This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flowers - Pale blue or violet, small, borne at short intervals in spike-like leafy racemes. Calyx 5-parted, its awl-shaped lobes 1/4 in. long, or as long as the tubular, 2-lipped, 5-cleft, corolla that opens to base of tube on upper side. Stamens, 5 united by their hairy anthers into a ring around the 2-lobed style. Stem: From 1 to 3 feet high, hairy, very acrid, much branched, leafy. Leaves: Alternate, oblong or ovate, toothed, the upper ones acute, seated on stem; lower ones obtuse, petioled, 1 to 2 1/2 in. long. Fruit: A much inflated, rounded, ribbed, many seeded capsule.
Preferred Habitat - Dry fields and thickets; poor soil.
Flowering Season - July - November.
Distribution - Labrador westward to the Missouri River, south to Arkansas and Georgia.
The most stupid of the lower animals knows enough to let this poisonous, acrid plant alone; but not so man, who formerly made a quack medicine from it in the days when a drug that set one's internal organism on fire was supposed to be especially beneficial. One taste of the plant gives a realizing sense of its value as an emetic. How the red man enjoyed smoking and chewing the bitter leaves, except for the drowsiness that followed, is a mystery.
On account of the smallness of its flowers and their scantiness, the Indian tobacco is perhaps the least attractive of the lobelias, none of which has so inflated a seed vessel, the distinguishing characteristic of this common plant.