Lobelia inflata (Indian Tobacco)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Lobeliaceae (Lobelia)
Life cycle:annual
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist open woods, thickets
Bloom season:July - October
Plant height:6 to 30 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Irregular, tubular flowers in racemes arising from leaf axils in the upper part of the plant; usually only 1 or 2 flowers are open on a raceme at a time. Flowers are pale blue or white, about 1/3 inch long. The lower lip is 3-lobed, the lobes pointed at the tip and all about the same size, the base yellowish with a tuft of white hairs. The upper lip is 2-lobed, the lobes mostly erect and smaller than the lower lobes. A curved style sits between the upper lobes. The calyx behind the flower has 5 narrow prong-like lobes.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are 2 to 3 inches long, ½ to 1½ inches wide, hairy, toothed around the edges, generally oval with a pointed tip and little to no leaf stalk, alternately attached. The stem is hairy to varying degrees and usually branched.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a globular capsule about 1/3 inch across, the calyx lobes projecting from the top. The inflated capsule is where the Latin name comes from.

[photo of seed] Inside the capsule are numerous tiny, oval, semi-translucent golden brown seeds. The surface is covered with a network of fine ridges and shiny scales.


Indian Tobacco is pretty easy to identify by the racemes arising from the leaf axils, and the inflated capsules. The Lobelia genus was once in its own Lobeliaceae family, then was moved to the Campanulaceae (Bellflower) family but is now back in Lobeliaceae.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County, and in Lake County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Pine counties


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Brian - Rushford
on: 2015-10-27 23:09:19

I found a few plants of this species today in the last of their bloom at Magellsen Bluff Park in Rushford, along the Quarry Trail.

Posted by: Cassie Carlson - Champlin, MN
on: 2019-09-15 12:50:53

Just found this plant today growing wild in my yard, at the edge of a stand of woods

Posted by: Eva Branvokd - Gilby
on: 2021-10-12 13:53:08

The Indian Tobacco seems so dark this year. Is that due to the drought?

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