Plants - Perennials

Plant profile: Aconitum

Poisonous, yes, but look beyond the label and appreciate monkshood's stately allure.

The genus Aconitum contains about 100 species of perennials and biennials that are widely scattered across the Northern Hemisphere, although gardeners tend to stick to named cultivars that have been selected for their tidy growth habit and showy flowers.

plant-prof-aconitum-blue.jpg
'Blue Lagoon' photography by Phytophoto

Plant profile: Aconitum
Most species bloom from late summer to early autumn, although some, like A. ‘Ivorine’, flower in the late spring, while others, such as ‘Arendsii’, are usually the last perennials to bloom in our northern gardens, eventually succumbing to hard frosts and diminishing daylight.

The poisonous properties of Aconitum (commonly called monkshood, wolfsbane or aconite) are well known, so much so that many gardeners refuse to plant them, which seems to me a great pity. I’d hazard a guess that these same gardeners probably unwittingly grow other members of the Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), such as anemo­nes, cimicifugas, clematis, columbines, delphiniums, hellebores and butter­ cups—all also poisonous. The trick, then, is to refrain from eating them.

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