March 3, 1616
Today is the birthday of the Flemish physician and botanist Mathias de l'Obel ("ma-TEE-us dew Lew-bell").
Mathias practiced medicine in England. And among his accomplishments, Mathias was the first botanist to recognize the difference between monocots and dicots.
Today we remember Mathias de l'Obel ("LEW-bell") with the Lobelia plant. Before researching Mathias, I pronounced obelia as "LOW- beel- ya". But now, knowing the French pronunciation of his name, I will say it "LEW-beel-ya." It's a subtle little change (LOW vs. LEW), but after all, the plant is named in Mathias's honor.
Now, for as lovely as the Lobelia is, the common names for Lobelia are terribly unattractive and they include names like Asthma Weed, Bladderpod, Gagroot, Pukeweed, Vomit Wort, and Wild Tobacco. These common names for Lobelia reflect that Lobelia is very toxic to eat.
Despite its toxicity, Lobelia is one of the sweetest-looking plants for your summer containers. This dainty annual comes in pink, light blue, and royal blue. Personally, every year, I buy two flats of light blue Lobelias. But no matter the color you choose, lobelias are a favorite of pollinators. The delicate blossoms frequently host bees, butterflies, and moths, which only adds to their charm.