Herbs & Plants

Aconitum Columbianum

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Botanical Name: Aconitum columbianum
Family: Ranunculaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales
Genus: Aconitum
Species: A. columbianum

Synonym: Helleboraceae (Hellebore Family).  Ranunculaceae  (Buttercup Family)
Common namesColumbian monkshood or western monkshood.

Habitat : This wildflower is native to western North America where it grows in moist areas.(North-western N. America – Alaska to California.) Moist woods to sub-alpine meadows, mostly along streams. Spring-fed bogs, seep areas, meadows, along streams, and in other wet areas at elevations of 300 – 3500 metres.

It is a spindly, twining perennial plant with lobed or toothed leaves and long stems with far-spaced flowers. The folded, wrinkly flowers are often deep blue or purple, but may also be white or yellowish, and they usually have a spur. The fruits are pod-like follicles. Like other monkshoods, this plant is poisonous.

It is hardy to zone 0. It is in flower from July to August. The flowers are pollinated by Bees.

Aconitum columbianum subsp. columbianum is a tall plant that resembles a Delphinium. The flower spike is terminal and deep blue or purple. The deeply lobed leaves also look like Delphinium, but the flowers have a distinct “hood,” making it easy to tell the two genera apart. Aconitum columbianum subsp. columbianum grows in moist, high elevation meadows.

Click to see more pictures:

Monkshood often is mistaken for its cousin Delphinium barbeyi; the two grow in similar moist habitats and both have broad, leafy, sometimes shrub-like growth, and very tall flower stalks.  Delphinium, though, reaches seven feet and Monkshood only five.  Monkshood flowers are most often intensely deep purple with a high arching hood.  Delphinium flowers range from inky blue through violet to purple and have a distinctive spur.  Delphinium is far more common but a discerning eye will often find Monkshood growing with Delphinium. The pictured plants are just over two feet tall and will grow another foot or two.   Notice the characteristic deeply incised leaves of Monkshood.

Thrives in most soils and in the light shade of trees. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Prefers a moist soil in sun or semi-shade. Prefers a calcareous soil. Grows well in open woodlands. Members of this genus seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits and deer. A greedy plant, inhibiting the growth of nearby species, especially legumes. Closely related to A. fischeri and part of that species according to some botanists. A very variable plant, there is also a sub-species (A. columbianum viviparum) that produces bulbils in the leaf axils.

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. The seed can be stratified and sown in spring but will then be slow to germinate. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer. Division – best done in spring but it can also be done in autumn. Another report says that division is best carried out in the autumn or late winter because the plants come into growth very early in the year. One to several small daughter tubers are produced at the first few nodes above the parent tuber, usually below ground, in a small percentage of the plants in bulbiferous and nonbulbiferous populations. These can be removed and potted up to produce new plants. Bulbils are produced in the leaf axils of sub-species viviparum[270]. These are an effective means of vegetative reproduction. They fall to the ground late in the season and sprout vigorously, giving rise to new plants.

Medicinal Actions & Uses
Nervine; Sedative.

The drug ‘aconite’ can be obtained from the root of this plant. It is used as a heart and nerve sedative. This is a very poisonous plant and should only be used with extreme caution and under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.

Other Uses
The seed is used as a parasiticide.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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