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Devil's Tobacco (Tabaco del Diablo)

Written by John James, posted on Friday, July 6, 2018

Enjoying the current spell of hot weather are the specimens of Devil’s Tobacco growing by the paved area in the Pococke Garden.

Devils Tobacco’s botanical name is Lobelia tupa and a plant much further from the widely known blue trailing Lobelia used in summer bedding displays is hard to imagine. Lobelia tupa is an herbaceous perennial originating from Chile and the Peruvian Andes where it can grow up to 4 meters tall.

Being of borderline hardiness it gets cut back to ground level by cold weather but it’s very sheltered spot in the Pococke Garden allows it to survive the winter months and spring back to life in the spring.

The Mapuche Indians of Southern Chile consider it a sacred plant and it has been shown that the leaves contain chemicals that act as a respiratory stimulant as well as being a counter effect herb on nicotine addiction, but beware the whole plant is considered to cause skin irritations and rashes.

The plant is attractive to bees and butterflies (and humming birds in its native habitat) but is reputedly unpalatable to aphids, slugs, snails and rabbits.