[Name in honor of M. Label, physician and botanist to James I.]
The genus is very large, containing more than eighty species. The predominant color in the species is blue, and many are highly ornamental.
This splendid native plant embellishes the borders of our brooks and rivulets, in the months of July and August, with its unrivalled scarlet blossoms. It is a mistaken notion that it will flourish only in wet ground. I have taken it up, when growing in water, and planted it in a soil that was far from being moist, with good success. It was introduced into England in 1629, and, to this day, is duly appreciated. Justice, who published a work on gardening, in 1754, in describing it, says:- "It is a flower of most handsome appearance, which should not be wanting in curious gardens, as it excels all other flowers I ever knew in the richness of its color." It has an erect stem, two to three feet high, with broad lanceolate, serrate leaves; flowers in terminal spikes, pointing one way.
Is a native of Mexico, and was introduced into England in 1809. Leaves narrow lanceolate, toothed, revolute at the edge; stem pubescent, (downy,) three feet high; perennial; its bright scarlet flowers in terminal racemes.
Is also a native of Mexico, introduced into England in 1814. Leaves narrow lanceolate; stem quite smooth, three feet high; flowers brilliant scarlet, in terminal racemes; perennial.
Is a common plant, and introduced into England in 1665. It has its specific name from its supposed efficacy in the cure of the syphilis, among the North American Indians. Sir "William Johnson purchased the secret from them, but Woodville says its virtues have not been confirmed by any instance of European practice." Stem erect, two feet high; raceme leafy, with flowers of a bright sky-blue. L. speciosa, of the gardens, is either a variety of this, or a hybrid between this and another species.
The treatment for those above enumerated is the same. I once had L. cardinalis, fulgens, and speciosa, in great perfection, having a soil and situation well adapted to their growth, with a little preparation. The soil, naturally, was a black, heavy loam, upon a clay and gravel subsoil, a little springy, and never very dry. Upon the spots designed for their location, I threw four or five shovelfuls of river-sand, and two of partly decomposed night-soil compost, and had it thoroughly incorporated with the soil, for two feet around, which made it quite light, and placed the plants in the center. They began to flower in July, and continued to throw up vigorous stems, with an abundance of flowers, until October. Their growth was so luxuriant, that it was necessary to tie them up to slender rods, stuck into the ground, a number of times, to prevent them from being broken by the wind. L. cardinalis and L. fulgens were more than three feet high; the others between two and three feet. They may be easily propagated, by laying the stems in July and August, or dividing the roots in the spring, or by seed.
"Van Mons observes that L. cardinalis perishes in sandy soil, but becomes strong and multiplies in loam, while, at the same time, it produces the most brilliant colors in the former.
"The same thing may doubtless be predicted of the other species, it being a well-known law of nature, as to living beings, that their energies are concentrated in proportion to the obstacles thrown in the way of their expansion."
A beautiful indigenous species, common in most pastures and by the road sides, with lively pale-blue flowers, in long terminal spikes; in July. Stem upright, smooth, a little hairy, one and one-half foot high. I have never seen this species cultivated, but have no doubt but what it would be very much improved, and prove a valuable acquisition to the border. There are a number of annual Lobelias which are much admired for their innumerable dark-blue flowers, which are produced through the season. They are humble trailing plants, very suitable for the front of the flower-bed, or for ornamental rock-work, until the perennials have spread. Among the varieties recommended are, L. ramo-sa, gracilis, coelestina, triqueter, and others. They are good plants for hanging pots, as they are always covered with their delicate blue, light and dark, rose, or white flowers, which, trailing over the pots, present an interesting appearance.
Flowers fine azure blue, shading off to a white margin; growth compact. A novel and desirable variety for pot culture, or for planting out in the border, where it succeeds best if partially shaded. All Lobelias are poisonous, though some have been used medicinally. I make this remark as a warning to inexperienced persons, against putting any of the species into the mouth. All the species are increased by sowing the seed; most of the perennials by cuttings or division of the roots.
Is probably familiar to every one, at least by name. Its virtues are so prized by some, that we are almost led to suppose that it is a sovereign remedy for all diseases that flesh and blood are heir to. The plant is an annual, of not much interest, with small blue flowers, and inflated pods or seed-vessels, common in dry pastures and road sides. The whole plant is a violent emetic.