Lobelia spicata (Pale-spike Lobelia)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Lobeliaceae (Lobelia)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; wet meadows, prairies, open woods
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:1 to 2 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
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 Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: raceme Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Flowers are loosely to densely packed in a spike-like raceme that can grow over a foot long over time. Individual flowers are about ½ inch across, pale blue to white, tubular with 2 small upper lobes that are bent back and 3 larger lower lobes that are similar in size. All lobes have pointed tips. There are 2 yellowish spots at the base of the lower lobes, and a dark blue stigma that sits between the 2 upper lobes. The calyx cupping the flower has 5 narrowly triangular lobes that are about as long as the floral tube. Flower stalks and the calyx are hairless to sparsely hairy.

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

[photo of lower leaves] Leaves are primarily in the lower half of the plant. Those near the base of the plant are spatula shaped to oval with rounded tips, to 3 inches long and 1 inch wide, with little or no stalk, becoming smaller and more widely spaced as they ascend the stem. Leaves are toothless to minutely toothed around the edges, sparsely hairy or hairless. Stems are unbranched, erect, single or multiple from the base, hairless to sparsely hairy, and angled with 4 or 5 edges.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Fruit is a nearly round capsule up to about ¼ inch long containing many brown seeds.


As Pale-spike Lobelia grows taller, it can bend and twist as if struggling to stay erect. The stems are a bit delicate, so perhaps it is. It is known as preferring moist soil so we were surprised to see it in the dry prairie at Glacial Lakes State Park. There are 2 varieties in Minnesota: var. spicata is mostly hairless, var. hirtella is mostly roughly hairy.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken Anoka, Chisago, Pope and Ramsey counties.


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

Posted by: Pat - Pillager
on: 2011-09-05 21:20:55

I found some plants growing in native prairie last summer in Meeker Co. I marked them with tape to come back later to collect seed but just before they were ripe the county ditch mower person mowed them all down.

Posted by: Linda - Thomas Lake Park restored prairie
on: 2016-02-01 01:06:27

Three plants on the side of a hillock. Haven't noticed it in the park before but 2015 was a perfect weather spring/summer. Also saw a Turk's Cap lily 2 ft away (until a deer or person took it 2 days later) and it's the only place in park where the coreopsis grows each year so maybe good soil or location.

Posted by: Terry - In a State Wetland East of Pelican Lake Near Ashby, MN
on: 2016-06-29 15:35:15

Cute little things.

Posted by: Kenny h - Shooting Star Scenic By way West of LeRoy
on: 2017-07-12 12:51:20

I found one of these dainty little things for the first time yesterday July 11...to small of a target for my smart phone camera to focus on...found it by the Fringed Orchids.

Posted by: patrick fleming - Lake Elmo (Wash. co)
on: 2020-07-18 18:58:52

I found a few of these in my small remnant. I don't think I planted them, but they could have been a contaminant in a seed mix. I had a hard time finding this plant at your site. It does not show up in a search of white flowers with spike clusters.

Posted by: Thomas Z - Barrows, MN - Crow Wing County
on: 2021-08-09 11:30:31

Unless there is a very similar looking species, I found this growing in an old field near Barrows, MN in Crow Wing County which isn't on the MN County list. Would submitting to Bell Museum help get it added?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-08-09 17:02:33

Thomas, yes, the best way to get the distribution maps updated is to submit a specimen to the Bell Herbarium. Then it becomes part of the official record.

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