Monkshood aka Wolfsbane

Aconitum has somewhere between 50 and 300 species depending on the taxonomist consulted.

This genus is known for its uniquely shaped flowers which resemble the hooded garment worn by ancient monks. Monkshoods generally grow in sun or shaded gardens and form tall (3-6 feet) flower spikes in the fall. Blooms are generally in shades of blue although some varieties have been developed with white or yellow flowers.

The roots, leaves and seeds of Aconitum are poisonous and very dangerous if eaten or if their juices get into scratches. They contain a narcotic alkaloid chemical called aconitin. Care should be taken when transplanting or handling monkshoods to avoid getting any of the sap from the plant into your mouth.

Monkshoods do best in partial shade and a cool, moist soil enriched with compost or leaf mold. However, they will also thrive in full sun if given enough soil moisture during the growing season. It is generally believed that monkshoods suffer severely when their roots are disturbed, so care should be taken when transplanting or dividing them in the garden.

 

A. autumnale 
(A. henryi)
Autumn Monkshood
A. x bicolor Bicolor Monkshood
A. carmichaelii Azure Monkshood
A. cainmarum sparkianum Spark's Variety Monkshood
A. fischeri  
A. lycoctonum
(A. vulparia)
Wolfsbane
A. napellus Garden Monkshood
A. septentrionale  
A. uncinatum Clambering Monkshood

Species Height
(feet)
Flower
color
Leaves divided
all the way to base
A. x bicolor 3-4 Various Yes
A. carmichaelii 2-3 Dark blue No
A. napellus 3-4 Dark blue Yes

* Guides and Keys are from the book "Herbaceous Perennial Plants A Treatise on their Identification, Culture and Garden Attributes" by Dr Allan M. Armitage of the University of Georgia. Varsity Press, Athens, Georgia. 1989 ISBN 0-942375-00. More on Dr Armitage and his other books.

 

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