Lobelia inflata L.
Bladderpod, Indian tobacco, wild tobacco, pukeweed, asthma weed, vomitwort
Indian tobacco is a North American native plant.
Identification: These plants are 6-28" (15-70 cm) in height. Stems have fine hairs. Leaves are 2-3" (5-7.6 cm) long and half as wide, roughly oval in shape, with fine teeth. Flowers are ¼" (6.3 mm) in size, white to pale blue or lavender in color, with a lower lip split into three sections, an an inflated base that becomes a seed pod about ¼" (8.5 mm) across. Flowers are bilaterally symmetrical, and they appear from July to October. Usually the flower stalks are on angled, leafless branches from the main stem, in addition to the main stem itself. Although the flowers are small, these pod-studded branches, like rattles, are the most easily identified characteristic.
Edibility: Poisonous This plant has been used in the past to induce vomiting, hence the name “pukeweed.” When eaten, in addition to nausea, it can cause convulsions or coma. These effects do not occur from smoking.
Medical: Indian tobacco has long been smoked as a remedy for asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and cough, both by native Americans and by some herbalists even today. Lobeline, an active ingredient, was tried as a substitute for nicotine in helping people to quit smoking. Although it may actually help for this purpose, there is not enough research data to support it, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned its use for this purpose in 1993. This plant has also been used as a purgative (like ipecac), eaten to induce vomiting, but it is too dangerous for this purpose.
Lobelia inflata on Ontario Wildflowers
Lobelia inflata at Minnesota Wildflowers
Lobelia inflata at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Lobelia inflata at the University of Maryland Medical Center
Lobelia inflata at Botanical.com
Lobelia inflata on the USDA Plants Database
Lobelia inflata on the Connecticut Botanical Society's Connecticut wildflowers site
Lobelia inflata description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 7 Nov 2020.