Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Lobelia splendens Willd. var. fulgens (Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.) S.Watson

Borderline frost hardy, clump-forming, rhizomatous perennial with dark red stems and tubular scarlet flowers in late summer.  To 90cm.  [RHSE, Hortus].

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘A native of Mexico, introduced by the celebrated travellors Humboldt and Bonpland: it is a perennial, and produces its flowers, which are of an inimitably brilliant scarlet, from July till the first frost cuts them off.’  [LBC no.1435/1830].  ‘Amongst the lobelias this elegant species claims altogether precedence; superior in colour even to the L. cardinalis, large in its flowers, tall in growth, and so easily cultivated that their abundance of beauty will ensure their admission into every collection.’  [ABR pl.654/1812]. 

Johnson’s Dictionary lists three garden varieties of Lobelia fulgens, multiflora and pyramidalis with scarlet flowers and Marryattae with purple.  ‘Lobelia fulgens multiflora is one of the handsomest plants that are grown for bedding.  It is not to be found in many establishments; but I do not know for what reason as it is easy to cultivate if properly attended to.  The plants are four feet high, and covered with blossoms which are of a fine rich scarlet or crimson.’  [Gard. Chron. 1852]. 

‘[Lobelia splendens] may be known from fulgens at first sight, although closely akin, by a smooth shiny surface, which in the other is clothed by a short close pubescence, imparting to it a paler opaque appearance, as if it were obscured by dust.  Splendens is a taller-growing plant.  The long familiar cardinalis, closely allied to both, has a corolla of the same form and colour but on a much smaller scale.’  [BR f.69/1815]. 

Lobelia fulgens is figured at BR f.165/1817.  Lobelia fulgens var. propinqua, said to be a hybrid between L. fulgens and L. splendens, is figured in Paxton’s Magazine of Botany.  [MB p.52/1835].  Lobelia fulgens was introduced to Britain in 1809.  [JD].  BM t.4002/1843 as Lobelia splendens var. atro-sanguinea.

History at Camden Park

Listed in the 1850 and 1857 catalogues [H.128/1850].  Desideratum to Loddiges, 6th January 1845 [MP A2933-2 p.28], the probable source.  At the same time Macarthur requested Lobelia splendens.


Published Sep 29, 2009 - 05:15 PM | Last updated Jul 16, 2010 - 11:41 AM

Figured is a raceme of scarlet flowers on a dark red stem.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.4002, 1843.

Lobelia splendens Willd. var. fulgens (Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.) S.Watson | BM t.4002/1843 | BHL.  Figured as Lobelia splendens atro-sanguinea.

Family Campanulaceae
Region of origin

North America

  • Lobelia splendens Willd. var. atro-sanguinea
  • Lobelia fulgens Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.
  • Lobelia cardinalis f. splendens (Willd.) Bowden
  • Lobelia texensis Raf.
  • Lobelia cardinalis L. var. texensis (Raf.) Rothr.
Common Name

Scarlet lobelia

Name in the Camden Park Record

Lobelia fulgens 

Confidence level high