Delphinium is a genus of about 250 species of annual, biennial or perennial flowering plants in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae, native throughout the Northern Hemisphere and also on the high mountains of tropical Africa. The common name, shared with the closely related genus Consolida, is Larkspur.
The leaves are deeply lobed with 3-7 toothed, pointed lobes. The main flowering stem is erect, and varies greatly in size between the species, from 10 cm in some alpine species, up to 2 m tall in the larger meadowland species; it is topped by many flowers, varying between purple, blue, red, yellow or white. The flower has five petals which grow together to form a hollow flower with a spur at the end, which gives the plant its name. The seeds are small and shiny black. The plants flower from late spring to late summer, and are pollinated by butterflies and bumble bees. Despite the toxicity, Delphinium species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Dot Moth and Small Angle Shades.
Cultivation and uses
Many species are cultivated as garden plants, with numerous cultivars having been selected for their denser, more prominent flowers.
All parts of the plant contain an alkaloid delphinine and are very poisonous, causing vomiting when eaten, and death in larger amounts. In small amounts, extracts of the plant have been used in herbal medicine. Gerard's herball reports that drinking the seed of larkspur was thought to help against the stings of scorpions, and that other poisonous animals could not move when covered by the herb, but does not believe it himself. Grieve's herbal reports that the seeds can be used against parasites, especially lice and their nits in the hair. A tincture is used against asthma and dropsy. The juice of the flowers, mixed with alum, gives a blue ink. HJ The plant was connected to Saint Odile and in popular medicine used against eye-diseases. It was one of the herbs used on the feast of St. John and as such warded against lightning. In Transylvania, it was used to keep witches from the stables, probably because of its black color.
Larkspur, especially tall larkspur, is a significant cause of cattle poisoning on rangelands in the western United States. Larkspur is more common in high-elevation areas, and many ranchers will delay moving cattle onto such ranges until late summer when the toxicity of the plants is reduced.
Delphinium andersonii is a species of larkspur known as Anderson's larkspur. This wildflower is native to western North America where it can be found in the Great Basin and the Sierra Nevada. This is an erect perennial usually reaching about half a meter in height. It has small leaves on long petioles with the leaf blades divided into long fingerlike lobes. The top of the slender stem is occupied by a cylindrical inflorescence of flowers, each flower two to four centimeters wide with a spur measuring nearly two centimeters in length. The flowers usually have sepals of a brilliant dark blue, with the lower two petals the same color and the upper two petals white. Some individuals have sepals and petals of very light purple or blue to almost white. The anthers are often yellow.
Delphinium bakeri - Baker's larkspur (Delphinium bakeri) is a perennial herb in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). It is an endangered species native to California (USA), the current single known population being estimated at 35 individuals.
This rare species grows from a thickened, tuber-like, fleshy cluster of roots, to a height of 70 cm (26 inches). The leaves occur primarily along the upper third of the stem and are green at the time the plant flowers.
The flowers are irregularly shaped. It has five conspicuous sepals, bright dark blue or purplish, with the rear sepal elongated into a spur. The inconspicuous petals occur in two pairs. The lower pair is oblong and blue-purple, the upper pair oblique and white. Seeds are produced in several dry, many-seeded fruits that split open at maturity on only one side. The species flowers from April through May.
Baker's larkspur grows on decomposed shale within coastal scrub plant community. Historically, it was known from Coleman Valley in Sonoma County and from near Tomales in Marin County, California.
Delphinium glaucum is a species of larkspur known by the common names Sierra larkspur, mountain larkspur, and glaucous larkspur. This wildflower is native to western North America from Arizona to Alaska. It grows in moist mountainous environments, such as riverbanks and meadows. This plant sprouts one to several tall, stout, pale green erect stems which may approach three meters in height. The lobed leaves are generally found only at the base of the plant. The top of the stem is a large inflorescence which may itself be over a meter long. It usually contains over fifty widely spaced flowers, with each flower on a pedicel a few centimeters long. The sepals are flat and extend to the sides or point forward. The sepals and petals are dark blue to deep purple, although the top two petals may be lighter in color to almost white. They may be somewhat wrinkly. The spur is about two centimeters long.
Delphinium bicolor is a species of larkspur known as little larkspur and low larkspur. It is native to northwestern North America from British Columbia to South Dakota, where it grows in mountain forests and foothill scrub and prairie. This is a perennial herb growing from a thickly branching root system. It produces solitary stems to 40 centimeters in height and green with reddish bases. Most of the leaves are low on the stem and grow on short petioles. They are several centimeters long with many rounded lobes. The small inflorescence holds several flowers. The flower has dark purple-blue sepals each about 2 centimeters long and a spur of 1 to 2 centimeters. The plant is poisonous to cattle, less so to sheep, and it is occasionally eaten by various species of wild cervids.
Delphinium gracilentum is a species of larkspur known by the common name pine forest larkspur. It is endemic to California, where it grows throughout the Sierra Nevada. This wildflower is usually around half a meter in maximum height, with leaves growing from the lowest third of the stem. The leaves usually have five lobes. The upper part of the stem is occupied by widely spaced flowers, which each grow at the end of a pedicel a few centimeters long. The flower color may be any shade of blue, or occasionally white or pinkish. The sepals often curl backwards. The spur is usually between one and one and a half centimeters long.
Delphinium grandiflorum is also known as 'Blue Butterfly'. This plant is commonly used in household gardens and is a favorite of hummingbirds. This plant requires full sun but can also thrive in part sun assuming good soil conditions. This plant will reach 12-15" tall and blooms in the summer. The abundant, long-blooming flowers are ideal for cutting and look wonderful paired with pink or yellow flowers. This variety can withstand hot summers and dryer soil. Dead-heading this plant will encourage more blooming. Care must be taken with pets and small children as all parts of the plant are poisonous.
Delphinium gypsophilum is a species of larkspur known by the common name Pinoche Creek larkspur. It is endemic to California, where it grows throughout the central part of the state in woodland and grassland. This wildflower generally reaches between one half and one meter in height. Its pale whitish-green stem is topped with cylindrical inflorescences of up to 30 flowers on short pedicels. The flowers are chalk-white, sometimes drying to a faint blue. Occasional individuals bear pink or light blue flowers. The spur is one to one and a half centimeters long.
Delphinium hansenii is a species of larkspur known by the common names Eldorado larkspur and Hansen's delphinium. It is endemic to California, where it grows in mountains, valleys, and desert from the southern Cascade Range to the Mojave Desert. This wildflower usually grows between one half and one meter in height, although it can grow much taller. The deeply lobed leaves are hairy, especially on the undersides. The inflorescence has usually over 25 flowers grouped close together at the top of the stem and held on long pedicels. The flowers are white to light blue or light pink, or bicolored, and vary in size. The inner petals may be quite hairy.
Delphinium luteum - The endangered flower Delphinium luteum, the yellow larkspur, is a perennial of the buttercup family which is endemic to the rocky, foggy hillsides of coastal Sonoma County, California. There are probably fewer than 100 individuals left in existence. This rare plant is a small herb bearing bright yellow cornucopia-shaped flowers.
The plant was never distributed beyond the coastal area of Sonoma and Marin Counties, and has never been abundant. Activities in the area including quarrying, grazing, agriculture, and development further reduced the population of yellow larkspur to its current near extinction. It has been listed as an endangered species since the 1970s. Extremely isolated patches of the plant still exist on private property near Bodega Bay, where it is protected.
Delphinium x Belladona Bellamosa
Author : Delphine Ménard. Under the Creative Commons "Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 France" Licence
Baker's larkspur - Delphinium bakeri
Author Stan Shebs. Under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License.
Delphinium nuttallianum (common names twolobe larkspur and Nuttall's larkspur)
Author Walter Siegmund. Under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License
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