Lobelia dortmanna

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Lobelia dortmanna
Lobelia dortmanna full.jpg
Plants in pond habitat
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Campanulaceae
Genus: Lobelia
L. dortmanna
Binomial name
Lobelia dortmanna

Lobelia dortmanna (Dortmann's cardinalflower[1] or water lobelia) is an aquatic stoloniferous herbaceous perennial aquatic plant with basal rosettes, and flower stalks growing to 70–200 cm tall. The flowers are 1–2 cm long, with a five-lobed white to pale pink or pale blue corolla, produced one to ten on an erect raceme held above the water surface. The fruit is a capsule 5–10 mm long and 3–5 mm wide, containing numerous small seeds.[2][3]

The leaves are linear to oblong, 2.5–7.5 cm long and evergreen. They have no functional stomata.[4] It is one of several unrelated species of plants from low nutrient lakes known as isoetids, owing to their superficial similarity to Isoetes.[5] The plant has the unusual ability of removing carbon dioxide from the rooting zone rather than from the atmosphere.[6][7]


Lobelia dortmanna is native to cool temperate regions of northern Europe (from the British Isles and northwest France to northwest Russia) and northern North America (both coasts; Newfoundland south to New Jersey and west to the Great Lakes in the east, and British Columbia south to Oregon in the west).[8][9]


The plant typically occurs in shallow water on sandy, peaty or rocky lakeshores, in pools, and in some kinds of wetlands. It is rarely found in rivers. Low water periods may leave it temporarily emersed, although it is sensitive to prolonged emersion and is one of the first species to be lost when water levels in lakes are artificially managed.

Lobelia dortmanna has relatively low competitive ability[10] and tends to be restricted to areas with low plant cover and relatively low rates of sedimentation at depths of less than 1m.[11] It often grows with other isoetids such as Littorella uniflora, Isoetes lacustris, Isoetes echinospora and Subularia aquatica. It is regarded as an indicator of infertile and relatively pristine shoreline wetlands.[12] Consequently, it is a species that can be put at risk by eutrophication[13] and is used as an indicator species of relatively clear water and the possible occurrence of other less obvious isoetid species.. Such lakes are therefore often referred to as Lobelian lakes, as a specific habitat. Scientifically, such aquatic environments are designated as habitat type 3130: "Oligotrophic to mesotrophic standing waters with vegetation of the Littorelletea uniflorae and/or of the Isoëto-Nanojuncetea". In Europe, Lobelian lakes are relatively abundant in the more mountainous areas.[14]



  1. ^ "Lobelia dortmanna". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  2. ^ BorealForest: Lobelia dortmanna
  3. ^ Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. ISBN 0-340-40170-2
  4. ^ Sculthorpe, C. D. (1967). The Biology of Aquatic Vascular Plants. Reprinted 1985 Edward Arnold, by London. p. 114.
  5. ^ Keddy, P.A. 2010. Wetland Ecology: Principles and Conservation (2nd edition). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. p. 26
  6. ^ Wium-Andersen, S. (1971). Photosynthetic uptake of free CO2 by the roots of Lobelia dortmanna. Plantarum, 25, 245–8.
  7. ^ Pedersen, Ole; Sand-Jensen, Kaj; Revsbech, Niels Peter. "Diel Pulses of O2 and CO2 in Sandy Lake Sediments Inhabited by Lobelia Dortmanna". Ecology. 76 (5). doi:10.2307/1938155. JSTOR 1938155.
  8. ^ Flora Europaea: Lobelia dortmanna
  9. ^ "Lobelia dortmanna". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  10. ^ Gaudet, C. L. and Keddy, P. A. (1988) A comparative approach to predicting competitive ability from plant traits. Nature, 334, 242–3.
  11. ^ Pearsall, W. H. (1920). The aquatic vegetation of the English Lakes. Journal of Ecology, 8, 163–201.
  12. ^ Moore, D. R. J., Keddy, P. A., Gaudet, C. L., and Wisheu, I. C. (1989). Conservation of wetlands: do infertile wetlands deserve a higher priority? Biological Conservation, 47, 203–17.
  13. ^ Keddy, P.A. 2010. Wetland Ecology: Principles and Conservation (2nd edition). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. p. 409
  14. ^ Habitat account - Freshwater habitats, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)