SOUTHERN LOBELIA (Lobelia amoena Michx.) belongs to the Campanulaceae family
The great blue lobelia, so showy and so prevalent in the area during late August and September is not the only lobelia you might come across. The “other lobelia” seems to me much more modest and retiring. The plant is not the sturdy bushy plant of its “Great” relative. It does not grow to several stalks as time goes on as does Lobelia siphilitica. It remains a single delicate stalk about two feet tall with a twirl of light purple to bright blue flowers.
Rather than announcing itself by roadsides and invading meadows, it stays in out of the way paths and patches of filtered light in wooded areas.
There are other differences. Its leaves, also alternate, are rounded instead of toothed, and turn an interesting deep blue as the plant matures or is covered with splotches of brown.
The flowers are much smaller than those of the Great Lobelia and can be light purple or lavender or a bright blue. Another difference is that Lobelia siphilitica seems to respond appreciatively to being brought into a flower bed and even volunteers appearing in beds all of its own. Our attempts to bring in its Southern cousin, Lobelia amoena, have not been at all successful. My recommendation is not to try, and to enjoy this delicate, pretty little plant on a hike along one of the many segments of the Appalachian Trail or the Bartram Trail in the Nantahala area.