Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Delphinium menziesii - Menzies' larkspur

Deadly, Homeopathic Use

Family: Ranunculaceae (Buttercup) [E-flora]

Subspecies Present in B.C.

"Delphinium menziesii is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.5 m (1ft 8in). It is hardy to zone (UK) 3. It is in flower from Apr to June. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil." [PFAF]

Habitat/Range: "Mesic to dry grassy bluffs, meadows and forest openings in the lowland and lower montane zones; common in SW BC; S to OR." [IFBC-E-flora]

Status: Native [E-flora]


"All parts of the plant are toxic[172]. The plant is most toxic when it is young[200]." [PFAF]

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

"Prefers a rich well-drained soil[111, 200]. Dislikes water-logged soils[200]. Requires an open sunny position[188]. A greedy plant, inhibiting the growth of nearby plants, especially legumes[54]." [PFAF]

"Seed - sow March/April in a cold frame or May outdoors[111]. Keep moist and in a shady position until germination takes place[175]. The seed has a limited viability so it should be stored in a sealed container at about 3oc[200]. Temperatures above 15oc inhibit germination[175]. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 9 weeks at 15oc[175]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer. Cuttings of basal shoots in April/May, taken before they become hollow at the base, and planted in a cold frame[111]. Division in spring[111] or early autumn[200]." [PFAF]


Delphinium Sp. - Larkspur

"Perennial herb; root generally < 10 cm, ± fibrous or fleshy; rootstock buds in life generally obscure (0 or obscure on herbarium specimens). Stem: erect, generally 1, generally unbranched; base generally ± as wide as, generally firmly attached to root, generally ± red or purple. Leaf: simple, basal and cauline, petioled; blades generally palmately lobed, deep lobes generally 3–5, generally < 6 mm wide, generally also lobed; cauline proximal generally dry, generally 0 in flower, distal merging into bracts. Inflorescence: raceme or ± branched, terminal; flowers generally 10–25; pedicels generally ± spreading. Flower: bilateral; sepals 5, petal-like, generally spreading, generally ± dark blue, uppermost spurred; petals 4, << sepals, upper 2 with nectar-secreting spurs enclosed in uppermost sepal, lower 2 clawed, with blades (limbs) generally 4–8 mm, 2-lobed, generally ± perpendicular to claws, generally colored like sepals, generally obviously hairy especially on lobes proximally, inner and outer lobes of each blade generally equally hairy; pistils 3(5). Fruit: follicles 3(5), erect, length generally 2.5–4 × width. Seed: generally winged in youth, collar inflated at widest end or generally not, dark brown to black, generally appearing white; coat cell margins generally straight.
± 300 species: arctic, northern temperate, subtropics, tropical mountains worldwide; 3 commonly cultivated as ornamental in North America. (Latin: dolphin, from bud shape) Most species highly TOXIC, attractive to, killing many cattle, fewer horses, sheep. Hybrids common, especially in disturbed places. Root length is of coarse parts only.
Unabridged references: [Lewis & Epling 1954 Brittonia 8:1–22]" [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Delphinium menziesii - Menzies' larkspur [E-flora]


"Delphinium species contain complex diterpenoid alkaloids that cause acute intoxication and death in cattle (12). The alkaloids and their concentrations vary with the species and plant part involved, which causes variability in toxicity. In Delphinium consolida (larkspur) there are toxic alkaloids in the non-medicinal plant parts (root, seed, herb), but they are purportedly absent in the medicinal part (the flower).[SEHM]

Delphinium consolida, Delphinium staphisagria "I hope the nonbotanists who wrote Commission E and the Herbal PDR have figured out the larkspurs better than I have. Otherwise, they know not of which larkspur they speak. There are more than a dozen Consolidas and Delphiniums, many called larkspurs. And don’t forget the pediculicide stavesacre, D. staphisagria L. After wasting a day with the nomenclatorial nuances, I feel I should treat three species or lump them all into one, larkspur (Consolida regalis Gray (formerly Delphinium consolida); the slightly different rocket larkspur, Consolida ajacis L. Schur; and finally the stavesacre, Delphinium staphasiagria L., which is not covered by the USDA. All are poisonous and dangerous, and probably not reliably distinguished by nonbotanists. So it is, methinks, a bit optimistic to assume the data in the literature have been based on positive identification (i.e., better speculations than mine)." [HMH Duke]

Uses of Non-local Species


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