Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spring Wildflowers-Dwarf Larkspur

The deep purple blossoms of Dwarf Larkspur, Delphinium tricorne, always make me smile. Such a beautiful little plant.

Larkspur is a relative to the garden variety Delphinium, as you can tell from the scientific name. Delphinium is derived from the Greek word "delphis" which means dolphin. The closed flower buds look similar to the nose of a dolphin. The "larkspur" name comes from the leaves and flowers that look like a lark's foot. Below is a rarer white variety.

Delphiniums and larkspurs are very toxic. They contain the alkaloids delphinine and aconitic acid. The alkaloids effect the nervous system causing one to become weak. The plant is also called staggerweed because of its affect on cattle that graze on the plant; they lose muscle control and stumble about. If enough of the plant is consumed it can cause respiratory failure and death.
The interestingly shaped seed pods splayed out in all directions look somewhat like a radiation warning symbol. The are filled with tiny brown achenes.

Dwarf Larkspur can flower April-June. They are especially beautiful along a roadside hill. It would make a lovely addition to any grden. Hopefully you will have a chance to catch this beauty in bloom this spring.

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