An Eco-sustainable World
HerbaceousSpecies Plant

Lobelia tupa

Lobelia tupa

Devil’s tobacco or tupa (Lobelia tupa L.) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Campanulaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Subkingdom Tracheobionta,
Spermatophyta superdivision,
Magnoliophyta division,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Subclass Asteridae,
Order Campanulales,
Campanulaceae family,
Subfamily Lobelioideae,
Genus Lobelia,
Species L. tupa.
The terms are synonyms:
– Dortmanna berteroi (A.DC.) Kuntze;
– Dortmanna bicalcarata Kuntze;
– Dortmanna mucronata (Cav.) Kuntze;
– Dortmanna philippiana Kuntze;
– Dortmanna tupa (L.) Kuntze;
– Dortmannia berteroi (DC.) Kuntze;
– Dortmannia bicalcarata Kuntze;
– Dortmannia mucronata (Cav.) Kuntze;
– Dortmannia philippiana Kuntze;
– Dortmannia tupa (L.) Kuntze;
– Lobelia bicalcarata (Kuntze) Zahlbr. ex K.Schum.;
– Lobelia bicalcarata Zahlbr.;
– Lobelia feuillei (G.Don) G.Nicholson;
– Lobelia mucronata Cav.;
– Lobelia mucronata f. hookeri (A.DC.) E.Wimm.;
– Lobelia mucronata f. ovalifolia E.Wimm.;
– Lobelia mucronata var. berteroi (A.DC.) E.Wimm.;
– Lobelia serrata Meyen;
– Lobelia tupa var. berteroi (A.DC.) Reiche;
– Lobelia tupa var. bicalcarata (Kuntze) E.Wimm.;
– Lobelia tupa var. montana Reiche;
– Lobelia tupa var. mucronata (Cav.) Reiche;
– Lobelia tupa var. pavonii E.Wimm.;
– Lobelia tupa var. tupa;
– Rapuntium mucronatum (Cav.) C.Presl;
– Rapuntium tupa (L.) C.Presl;
– Tupa berteroi A.DC.;
– Tupa cavanillesiana G.Don;
– Tupa feuillei G.Don;
– Tupa feuillei var. berteroi (A.DC.) Vatke;
– Tupa feuillei var. macrophylla Vatke;
– Tupa feuillei var. mucronata (Cav.) Vatke;
– Tupa montana Phil.;
– Tupa mucronata (Cav.) A.DC.;
– Tupa mucronata var. hookeri A.DC..

Etymology –
The term Lobelia was given to the genus by Linnaeus to the Flemish botanist Mathias de Lobel (or de L’Obel, Latinized in Matthaeus Lobelius, 1538-1616), physician and botanist of the king under James I of England, of the court in London, and author of a famous Historia plantarum.
The specific epithet tupa is derived from the vulgar name. The term Tupa [तुपा] in Marathi language is the name of a plant identified with Psydrax dicoccos Gaertn. of the Rubiaceae family. Or it may be derived from Tamil ஆட்டுப்பட்டி, āṭṭuppaṭṭi, “flock of sheep”.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Lobelia tupa is a plant native to central Chile and naturally present in the territory that goes from Valparaíso south to the regions of Los Lagos.
Its habitat is deciduous forest and evergreen temperate rainforest regions, where it grows along roadsides, in fields, stream banks, grassy slopes and forest edges, normally at elevations of up to 400 metres, occasionally up to at 940 meters.

Description –
Lobelia tupa is a herbaceous, perennial and evergreen plant that grows between 50 and 300 cm in height, being able to reach up to about 400 cm.
It is a robust plant that produces several stems from the base. These stems are hollow, usually unbranched and herbaceous or somewhat woody;.
The foliage is grey-green, with elliptical, felty leaves 10-15 cm long.
The flowers are red, tubular, trumpet-like, and 2-lipped and are produced in a sympodial inflorescence. These are pollinated by hummingbirds and bees.

Cultivation –
Lobelia tupa is a plant that is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine.
It is a plant that is resistant to cold down to about -10° C, but in areas with maritime and mild winters it can vegetate early and be exposed to frost damage.
For its cultivation it prefers a sunny area or even in light shade with some shelter from the wind.
From the pedological point of view it requires a fertile and permanently moist clayey soil but it can also grow in drier soils.
It is a plant that hybridizes easily with other members of the genus and has some potential interest for use as an ornamental.
Propagation occurs by seed; it is advisable to sow it as soon as it ripens in spring or autumn in a protected area.
The young seedlings are then placed in individual pots and transplanted in late spring or early summer in open fields or flower beds.
It can also be propagated by division in spring.

Customs and Traditions –
Lobelia tupa was described by Carlos Linnaeus and published in his work in 1763.
It is a plant considered sacred by the indigenous Mapuche of southern Chile.
The plant has numerous ethnobotanical uses due to its pharmacologically active alkaloids. Its latex is used as an abortifacient, and the large felty leaves are smoked as a narcotic with possible hallucinogenic effects, hence one of its common names, Tabaco del Diablo. Ironically, this plant has been used to treat nicotine addiction because it contains the nicotine-related alkaloid Lobeline (a mixed agonist-antagonist of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors).
Tupa leaves have also been found to contain chemicals that act as respiratory stimulants.
Remember that the whole plant is poisonous. Ingestion of latex can cause intestinal disturbances and diarrhea with bleeding.
Many species of the genus Lobelia contain a range of piperidine alkaloids, particularly lobeline and lobelanine. If ingested, these can cause a range of symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, exhaustion and weakness, dilated pupils, seizures and coma. In general, the degree of toxicity is only moderate and plants are only harmful in larger quantities.
Even the smell of this plant is known to cause states of suffering.

Method of Preparation –
Lobelia tupa is a plant used since ancient times for medicinal uses.
The juice (latex) obtained by pressing the leaves is used to relieve the pain of toothache. It is also used as an abortifacient.
However, latex is known to cause great discomfort (and possibly blindness) when rubbed into the eyes.
The plant is smoked and some claim that it has a narcotic effect, although there is no certainty that this is truly hallucinogenic.
No other uses are known.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: The pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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