White Lobelia

Yellow is the color I think of first when it comes to the end of summer. Yellow flowers seem everywhere. The Jerusalem artichokes just joined the tickseed sunflowers, bristly sunflowers, prairie dock and others with their orange-yellow displays.

Hidden under these tall yellow flowers are others. Great blue lobelia is one. It should be found in garden catalogs but isn’t.

blue lobelia buds

Once Blue Lobelia has a flower stalk up its buds begin to grow. At first they are a greenish white.

Blue lobelia puts up flower stalks a foot to two feet tall and lines them with big blue flowers. The buds are off white at the beginning then develop blue stripes. These big buds make me think of pin stripe suits.

Color appears on the lobelia buds in the form of purple to dark blue stripes.

Color appears on the lobelia buds in the form of purple to dark blue stripes.

The lobelia flowers then open with their toothy tubes. Three big teeth are on the bottom with two hanging over the top. This is a most recognizable feature of all the lobelia flowers from big cardinal reds to small pale lobelias.

lobelia flowers

The lobelia buds burst open showing their two bottom petal teeth with two petal teeth and stamen arching over them.

I wandered from one lobelia stalk to stalk going out to finish fixing the creek fence and back. The wire is again rigged to look like a fence but release again when the next high water or flood races by. I did remove one strand of barbed wire as unnecessary except as another strand to pull free from leaves and gravel.

These plants like creek bottoms, moist soil and shade. Perhaps this is why they aren’t in the garden catalogs. Ozark springs are a good place to find these lobelias so I walked down to a nearby spring.

bumblebee in lobelia flower

A small bumblebee must climb down into the lobelia flower as the stamen rubs pollen down her back. Not much of the bumblebee shows once she’s in the flower.

Blue flowers were in full display. A small bumblebee didn’t let my presence stop her from indulging each blossom. She landed on the bottom teeth and dived into the blue tube until only a little of her end still showed. A short time later she backed out and went to the next flower to repeat her dive. Thanks to her and others like her there will be lobelias next year too.

Looking around bright white flowers caught my eye. Few flowers are brilliant white, the white of sun on snow. These were.

white lobelia flowers

Rarely blue lobelia flowers are white, a brilliant snowy white.

I had to maneuver my way around the spring runoff to take a closer look. These flowers were definitely lobelias as they had the three teeth below and two above. The leaves looked like those of their blue neighbors.

According to the Missouri Wildflower guidebook great blue lobelia is normally blue, lavender or purple. Occasionally they are white. I found two stalks of white lobelia down by the spring.

If I had a flower bed suitable, I would gather some seeds. I don’t so I will hike down to the spring again next year to admire the lobelias.