Larkspurs are erect, perennial, herbaceous plants with simple or branched hollow stems. The leaves are alternate and palmately divided. The flowers are perfect and irregular, and are usually grow numerous in tall, narrow clusters. The flowers are dark blue in color. There are 5 sepals, the upper most one having an obvious spur. Inside the sepals there are two sets of two petals each, the two lower ones forming a claw and the upper two extending into the spur. The flowers have multiple stamens and 3 pistils which may be fused at the base. The fruits are follicles that split open to release numerous dark brown/black seeds. All parts of these plants contain poisonous alkaloids, mainly delphinine, and it is considered highly toxic to cattle in the spring, but not poisonous to domestic sheep. Early settlers used the seeds as poison baits in exterminating lice. The alkaloids have been used as an insect poison, and the seeds rubbed into the scalp to kill nits. The plants’ popular name is derived from the flower’s spur, a prolongation of an upper sepal. The botanical name for the larkspurs – Delphinium – dates from ancient Greece, having been used by the Greek physician Dioscorides in the 1st century, derived from the Greek word for dolphin.
Guide to Identify Presented Species of Genus Delphinium
TALL, ROBUST PLANT WITH PARTLY WHITISH FLOWERS
D. X occidentale Tall Mountain Larkspur Stems partly sticky-glandular, 100-200 cm tall. Moist mountain meadows.
Flowers pale blue, many in tall, dense clusters. Spur long, thick near base.
Leaves alternate, palmately cut into 5-7 wedge-shaped, toothed segments.