Aconitum Flower (Aconite, Monkshood, Wolfsbane)

During this summer, on some walks in the mountains, we have come across the Aconitum Flower. 

The temptation is to cut a few for a vase at home for its striking flower headings. 

However, behind its beauty, it hides one of the most toxic substances specific to vegetables. 

We usually talk about caring for plants. On this occasion, however, we are going to talk about the care that must be taken, with this Aconitum Flower.

Let’s talk about the gender of the Aconitum Flower

It belongs to the Ranunculáceas family. 

Like almost any plant, it is normal to find a genus that includes many species that share morphological characteristics that the “taxonomists” end up grouping together. 

It is very recognizable aconite since its inflorescences are very very striking for various reasons. 

They are elongated inflorescences with heights of up to one meter (although the average is less, between 50 and 75 cm). 

Its intense purple color stands out from the rest of the mountain plants that are usually heather, juniper, mountain blueberry … and an endless number of high-level shrubby trails where trees are beginning to be scarce.

Common habitat of the Aconitum Flower

As I mention, they are found in mountains climates up to 2000 meters of altitude throughout Europe. 

In Spain, the typical areas are the Cantabrian Mountains, the Pyrenees, the Sierra de Granada (Sistema Bético), the Sierra de Madrid (Sistema Central).In the Mediterranean mountain areas.

It is always easy to find in very humid areas and especially near high purity watercourses (springs, streams and mountain springs). 

It shares this same characteristic with the appreciated watercress.

Toxicity

One of the reasons why this plant is well known is precisely this. 

Its EXTREME toxicity. Just as it happens with oleanders in the Mediterranean, in the mountain areas of almost all of Europe we find this deadly beauty. 

And if you’re asking your self, what parts of the plant are toxic. ALL.

In its internal composition, the plant has significant amounts of a terpenic alkaloid called aconitine, so-called obviously because it has been isolated and discovered in plants of this genus. 

All parts of the plant (flowers, stem and especially the root) are toxic 

Aconitum flower affects the nervous system by opening the sodium ion channels of nerve cells. 

It produces a very severe symptom in which various symptoms are linked as the victim’s condition worsens. 

Feeling of anesthesia, sweating, feeling cold, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea cramps. Itchy tongue, lips, blurred vision, slow and weak pulse, drop in blood pressure, abnormal breathing, seizures and finally respiratory arrest or ventricular fibrillation.

Can Animals be poisoned with the Aconitum flower?

This is a question that I throw into the air rather than give you a concrete answer.

I discovered this plant at about 2000 m altitude in a mountain climate in the middle of August.

At that moment it occurred to me that a cow or horse could perfectly pluck it and eat it. 

Observing, livestock completely avoid this plant with such extreme neatness that it seems that they were aware of its toxicity on a human level. 

We know that it is a genetic matter and rarely (purely accidental cases) we will have animals poisoned by the Aconitum flower

Can the Aconitum flower be cultivated as ornamental?

The seeds are sold, and of course, nothing prevents you from collecting some plants and reproducing them in your garden. 

They are beautiful but … The World Health Organization (WHO) declared this plant as prohibited for medicinal use due to its high toxicity at low doses. 

Remember that 3-4 grams of the root (for example) is deadly to a healthy adult. 

So…

If you use your garden from a purely ornamental point of view.

You have no pets or animals nearby (cats and dogs often purge themselves “with what they catch”).

If you don’t have children.

You can have it in your garden just for her beauty purpose.

But remember to always work the garden with gloves as a precaution.

How to care for the Aconitum Flower (Aconite, Monkshood,Wolfsbane)

Light Exposure

The plants can handle both full sun and partial shade, however, they prefer somewhat moist soil.

If you are growing them in a hot, dry area, definitely give them a spot with some shade, especially in the afternoon. 

When grown in shade, you will probably need to stake the plants.

Mature Size

Monkshood fills out to a nice size plant, reaching a height of 3 to 5 ft. and spreading to 1 1/2 ft. 

However, it does take several years to become established. Once established, the plants are very long-lived.

Bloom Period

Flowering starts in mid- to late summer and will continue into the fall.

Soil

Monkshood plants prefer a soil pH that is neutral to slightly acidic, but will tolerate other soils as long as they are rich, moist, and well-draining.

Starting from seed

You can start monkshood from seed, but it can be finicky about germination and may take a year or more to sprout. 

Start extra seeds and don’t expect them all to germinate. Sow the seed from fall to early spring. 

They need to go through a chilling period, to break dormancy. The plants don’t really like to be transplanted, so direct sow if possible. They can be ephemeral their first year, so don’t panic if they disappear.

Planting

Monkshood likes fairly rich soil. Add plenty of organic matter before planting to add nutrients and to help keep the soil moist, but draining well. You can plant or divide monkshood in either spring or fall, but avoid doing it in the heat of summer. 

Monkshood never “needs” dividing, but you can divide it if you want more plants. The roots tend to break easily, so handle with care. They are easier to divide if you water them beforehand so that the soil adheres to the roots.

Water

Once established, monkshood is able to withstand short periods of drought, but for robust plants, provide a moist soil or water regularly.

Fertilizer

Feeding always depends on the quality of your soil. Definitely start with rich soil, high in organic matter. Side dress with compost and some organic fertilizer each spring.

Maintenance

Monkshood is a very a low maintenance plant. Since these are late-season bloomers and they do not repeat bloom, you won’t really need to deadhead. The plants will die back to the ground at frost.

Conclusion 

Just as flowers can be of incalculable beauty, they can also be just as dangerous for their toxicity. 

This is the case of the aconitum flower. 

It is one of the most striking but poisonous plants that exist. 

The flowers have great ornamental value and are used for decoration. 

However, it is dangerous to manipulate them without knowledge since they can poison us. 

Consuming this plant can be very dangerous, so be careful with dogs.

It belongs to the Aconitum genus and the Ranunculaceae family and is native to Europe. We will explain in great detail everything about aconite.