Lobelia kalmii (Kalm's Lobelia)

Plant Info
Also known as: Brook Lobelia, Ontario Lobelia
Family:Lobeliaceae (Lobelia)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; seeps, fens, wet meadows, shores
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:4 to 16 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
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] Loose racemes of ¼ to ½ inch irregular blue to purple flowers, sometimes white, on slender stalks. The lower lip is fan-shaped with 3 oblong lobes all about the same size, rounded at the tip but often with an abrupt sharp point; the middle lobe is white at the base, sometimes yellowish. The upper lip is divided into 2 small erect lobes, pointed at the tip and resembling (to me) rabbit ears, the short curved style poking out between them.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of basal leaves] Basal leaves are spatula shaped, up to 1¼ inch long and about ¼ inch wide, with tiny teeth around the edges. Basal leaves often wither away by flowering time.

[photo of stem leaves] Upper leaves are up to 2 inches long and less than ¼ inch wide, mostly linear or narrowly spatulate, also with tiny teeth widely spaced around the edges, mostly erect. Leaves and stems are mostly hairless, sometimes sparsely hairy in the lower plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a small capsule, open at the top, with the sepals persisting at the top.

[photo of seeds] Seeds are tiny, golden brown, semi-translucent, with a network of fine ridges across the surface.


Kalm's Lobelia is a sweet little thing, and much more common that I imagined. It is easily found growing in the rocks along the north shore of Lake Superior, seemingly sprouting out of solid rock. The inland locations are more likely to be in wet meadows, seeps and calcareous fens in peaty, sandy or mineral-rich soil. A number of collection sites documented in old herbarium records that we've tried to locate have largely been choked out with non-native grasses and weeds, and devoid of natives due to agriculture. The rocky shore of Lake Superior is not immune from these forces, however, as Tansy and other invasive species gain a larger foothold.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka in Lake County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook, Kittson and Lake counties.


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

Posted by: Mary - Apple Valley
on: 2014-07-25 22:35:49

I saw the tiniest lobelias?? today in our son's yard north of Elk River. They were growing in long grass next to a tree. I was removing sod from around a hosta we planted there this spring. I do not think it is L. Kalmii. Is there another smaller species? There were several plants and i teased them out of the grass I was removing and replanted next to the hosta so I could find them again. The flowers definitely looked like lobelia and from a distance looked white. But on close observation they were actually a very very pale shade of blue. Flowers about a quarter of an inch wide. The stems were under a foot high with basal leaves, less than an inch long; maybe one or two leaves on the stem which was practically thread-like. I would like to know the name of this plant. Thank you!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-07-26 07:50:45

Mary, all of the native Lobelia species are on this website. If it is indeed a Lobelia and you don't see it here then it is introduced, maybe by some nearby garden or other planting. Having said that, many unrelated plants look similar to an untrained eye. If you'd like confirmation, post a picture of it on our Facebook page, or we'd be glad to give personal service via email in return for a donation to the project.

Posted by: P. Larson Frink - Cascade State park
on: 2014-08-19 20:48:14

I saw this little Lobelia growing in the rocks along the shore of Lake Superior (8/16/2014) at the picnic area of Cascade State park. The plant was only about 5" tall and the flowers were more of the darker blue/violet as in the first photograph on this page.I walked along the shore for quite a ways, but only saw that one clump of flowers.

Posted by: Jen - Cloquet River, St. Louis Co.
on: 2015-09-29 07:49:55

I was excited to come across this at the edge of the Cloquet River on 9/25/15. It had mostly gone to seed, but a few faded flowers remained at the top of the flower spike. I've see the north shore populations, but nothing inland until now.

Posted by: Courtney Kerns - Rich fen in northern Lake of the Woods County
on: 2019-08-13 18:44:56

Growing in some little rich fens on state land northwest of Baudette. This species was growing with Dasiphora fruticosa, Trichophorum cespitosum, Parnassia glauca, and others. Well outside the large peatlands, amongst fragmented and altered wetlands. A nice surprise!

Posted by: hvhughes - Pembina Trail - Marshall County
on: 2020-09-11 19:18:06

photographed several today - in a ditch near the Pembina Trail

Posted by: Kim - Tofte
on: 2022-08-01 22:17:59

Saw and photographed a single specimen on the rocks at Tofte.

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