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Delphinium staphisagria
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Ranunculaceae
Genus: Delphinium

See text

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.

Other names are, lark's heel (Shakespeare), lark's claw and knight's spur. The scientific name is taken from Dioscorides and describes the shape of the bud, which is thought to look like a (rather fat) dolphin.

The Forking Larkspur (Delphinium consolida) prefers chalky loams. It grows wild in cornfields, but has become very rare nowadays. The flowers are commonly purple, but a white variety exists as well.

Baker's larkspur (Delphinium bakeri) and Yellow larkspur (D. luteum), both native to very restricted areas of California, are highly endangered species.

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.

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 blue 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.


About 250 species, including:

  • Delphinium alabamicum : Alabama Larkspur
  • Delphinium alpestre : Colorado Larkspur
  • Delphinium altissimum
  • Delphinium andersonii : Anderson's Larkspur
  • Delphinium andesicola : Chiricahua Mountain Larkspur
  • Delphinia antoninum : Tracy's Larkspur
  • Delphinium bakeri: Baker's Delphinium
  • Delphinium barbeyi : Subalpine Larkspur
  • Delphinium basalticum : Basalt Larkspur
  • Delphinium bicolor : Little Larkspur
  • Delphinium brachycentrum : Northern Larkspur
  • Delphinium brownii
  • Delphinium brunonianum
  • Delphinium bulleyanum
  • Delphinium caeruleum
  • Delphinium californicum : California Larkspur
  • Delphinium cardinale
  • Delphinium carolinianum : Carolina Larkspur
  • Delphinium cashmerianum
  • Delphinium chamissonis : Chamisso's Larkspur
  • Delphinium cheilanthum
  • Delphinium consolida
  • Delphinium corymbosum
  • Delphinium decorum : Coastal Larkspur
  • Delphinium delavayi
  • Delphinium denudatum
  • Delphinium depauperatum : Slim Larkspur
  • Delphinium dictyocarpum
  • Delphinium distichum : Twospike Larkspur
  • Delphinium duhmbergii
  • Delphinium elatum : Candle Larkspur
  • Delphinium exaltatum : Tall Larkspur
  • Delphinium fissum
  • Delphinium formosum
  • Delphinium geraniifolium : Clark Valley Larkspur
  • Delphinium geyeri : Geyer's Larkspur
  • Delphinium glareosum : Olympic Larkspur

  • Delphinium glaucescens : Smooth Larkspur
  • Delphinium glaucum : Sierra Larkpsur
  • Delphinium gracilentum : Pine Forest Larkspur
  • Delphinium grandiflorum : Siberian Larkspur
  • Delphinium gypsophilum : Pinoche Creek Larkspur
  • Delphinium hansenii : Eldorado Larkspur
  • Delphinium hesperium : Foothill Larkspur
  • Delphinium hutchinsoniae : Monterey Larkspur
  • Delphinium hybridum
  • Delphinium inopinum : Unexpected Larkspur
  • Delphinium leroyi
  • Delphinium leucophaeum
  • Delphinium likiangense
  • Delphinium linarioides
  • Delphinium lineapetalum : Thinpetal Larkspur
  • Delphinium luteum : Yellow Larkspur
  • Delphinium maackianum
  • Delphinium macrocentron
  • Delphinium madrense : Sierra Madre Larkspur
  • Delphinium menziesii : Menzies' Larkspur
  • Delphinium multiplex : Kittitas Larkspur
  • Delphinium muscosum
  • Delphinium nelsonii
  • Delphinium newtonianum : Newton's Larkspur
  • Delphinium novomexicanum : White Mountain Larkspur
  • Delphinium nudicaule : Red Larkspur
  • Delphinium nuttallianum : Twolobe Larkspur
  • Delphinium nuttallii : Upland Larkspur
  • Delphinium occidentale: Subalpine Larkspur
  • Delphinium oxysepalum
  • Delphinium parishii : Desert Larkspur
  • Delphinium parryi : San Bernardino Larkspur
  • Delphinium patens : Zigzag Larkspur
  • Delphinium peregrinum
  • Delphinium pictum
  • Delphinium polycladon : Mountain Marsh Larkspur
  • Delphinium przewalskii

  • Delphinium purpusii : Kern County Larkspur
  • Delphinium pylzowii
  • Delphinium ramosum : Mountain Larkspur
  • Delphinium recurvatum : Byron Larkspur
  • Delphinium requienii
  • Delphinium robustum : Wahatoya Creek Larkspur
  • Delphinium roylei
  • Delphinium sapellonis : Sapello Canyon Larkspur
  • Delphinium scaposum : Tall Mountain Larkspur
  • Delphinium scopulorum : Rocky Mountain Larkspur
  • Delphinium semibarbatum
  • Delphinium speciosum
  • Delphinium stachydeum : Spiked Larkspur
  • Delphinium staphisagria
  • Delphinium sutchuense
  • Delphinium sutherlandii : Sutherland's Larkspur
  • Delphinium tatsienense
  • Delphinium treleasei : Glade Larkspur
  • Delphinium tricorne : Dwarf Larkspur
  • Delphinium triste
  • Delphinium trolliifolium : Columbian Larkspur
  • Delphinium uliginosum : Swamp Larkspur
  • Delphinium umbraculorum : Umbrella Larkspur
  • Delphinium variegatum : Royal Larkspur
  • Delphinium verdunense
  • Delphinium vestitum
  • Delphinium villosum
  • Delphinium virescens
  • Delphinium viridescens : Wenatchee Larkspur
  • Delphinium viride
  • Delphinium wootonii : Organ Mountain Larkspur
  • Delphinium xantholeucum : Yellow-white Larkspur
  • Delphinium yunnanense
  • Delphinium zalil : Zalil

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Delphinium". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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