i thought i had identified a plant that i have seen since my childhood as lobelia inflata. when i was a youngster my friends and i would grasp the flowers and slap the bulbous portion against our thighs to hear the "pop". however, when i look at the flower of this plant it seems to have 10 petals rather than 5 though there is a distinct slot or gap between each petal leaving me to believe that the flower has 5 petals and as it bloomed out spread to look like 10 petals. the leaves of the plant look the same as all the photographs of lobelia inflata that i've found on the net. would you please respond to this e-mail and dispel my confusion?
thanks so much,
lynn finstad

The first question is where you live now, and then where you lived as a child. Lobelia inflata is native to the eastern USA so we don't ever see it in here in Europe (plus it's a restricted species). What you describe sounds like Caryophyllaceae (one of the campions), so check in your flora to make sure it isn't a Silene species or something similar.

Incidentally, I assume you know that Lobelia inflata has many interesting properties, including that it's good to smoke, hence it being restricted over here. It's also an emetic, meaning that ingesting even small amounts makes you vomit. Make sure you can tell the difference before attempting either!

Last edited by Markus Eichhorn (8th Jul 2009 11:25:34)