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Aconitum columbianum

Aconitum columbianum

Aconitum columbianum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aconitum columbianum subspecies columbianum (Monkshood)
Ranunculaceae  (Buttercup Family)

Subalpine. Woodlands, meadows, wetlands.  Summer.
Pass Creek Trail, August 2, 2005; Kilpacker Trail, July 10, 2012; and Rough Canyon Trail, July 18, 2016.

The top photo shows a typical setting for Aconitum columbianum, buried in other plants that also enjoy wet roots.  The Corn-like leaves are those of Veratrum californicum, and the yellow Sunflower is Senecio triangularis.

The second photo shows a surprising characteristic of the Aconitum flower: The showy purple floral parts are not petals; they are sepals. Two petals are short and tubular with split lower lips and coiled spurs. They are concealed within the upper hooded sepal and can be seen just barely protruding and curling under the hood.

Aconitum columbianum

Aconitum columbianum subspecies columbianum (Monkshood)
Ranunculaceae  (Buttercup Family)

Subalpine.  Woodlands, meadows, wetlands.  Summer.
Upper Calico Trail, July 21, 2005.

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 tall 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. 

Linnaeus named this genus in 1753 from a European specimen. The plant is circumboreal with about 100 species worldwide. East Asia and Europe are the centers of diversity. Our North American taxon was first collected for science by famed botanist, Thomas Nuttall, near the Columbia River around Walla Walla in 1834. 

"Aconitum" is the classical Latin name and probably means "unconquerable poison", referring to the plant's toxicity.  "Columbianum" refers to the plant's American (Columbian) location.

Aconitum columbianum

Aconitum columbianum subspecies columbianum (Monkshood)
Ranunculaceae  (Buttercup Family)

Subalpine.  Woodlands, meadows, wetlands.  Summer.
Sharkstooth Trail, July 30, 2004.

Aconitum columbianum
Geranium richardsonii
Monkshood
(Aconitum columbianum)

Ranunculus uncinatus
Delphinium barbeyi
Trollius albiflorus

Leaves of these five species are quite similar.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Aconitum columbianum