Aconitum delphinifolium : Northern Monkshood


Scientific Name:

Kingdom: Plantae


Class: Dicoteldonae (two seed-leaves)

Family: Ranunculaceae (Crowfoot/Buttercup Family)

Genera: Aconitum (Monkshood) (One possible origin of many is Gk. akontion= a dart; because these plants were used to poison darts)

Species: delphinifolium (from Lat. delphinium= the plant + folium= leaf; meaning with leaves like a Delphinium)

English Name(s):

Northern Monkshood,

First Nation Names:



  • Plant herbaceous (not woody) with colourless acrid (bitter) juice.
  • Rhizome (rootstock) cormlike.
  • Stems 20-50cm tall, erect, less than 5mm thick, glabrous (smooth).


Reproductive Parts:

  • Inflorescence (flower clusters) of 3-5 flowers in open racemes.
  • Flowers perfect (bisexual) and of irregular zygomorphic symmetry.
  • Flowers 2-4cm in diameter, deep blue in colour.
  • Sepals 5, petal-like; upper sepal hood or helmet shaped; side sepals oval and wider than the lower 2.
  • Petals 2, enclosed by the hood, hooked at apex; highly modified with a slender, filamentous lower section, a hanging blade and an elongate hollow projection.
  • Stamens (male parts) numerous, hairless, filaments flattened.
  • Ovaries superior (above floral parts).


  • Fruit are many seeded, erect, follicles, 1.5-2.0cm long.

Not to Be Confused With:

  • The leaves of this species look alot like Delphinium glaucum (Tall Larkspur) leaves, but the flowers are very different.



  • The petals of this flower have been transformed into nectar glands and most of the showy blossoms that we see are composed of modified sepals.
  • Apparently all parts of all species of Aconitum (Monkshood) contain the poisonous alkaloid aconitine and others.

Life Cycle:

Seasonal Cycle:

  • plants deciduous from rootstock.
  • Flowers blooming in mid-July.


Animal Uses:

  • The flower is designed for bumblebee pollination but these insects often avoid the fnacy internal mechanisms for pollination by biting right through the hood and stealing the nectar.


  • Moist meadows from tundra and heathlands to thickets and woods.






    • Caution: All parts of all species of Aconitum contain the poisonous alkaloid aconitine and others. Are harmless to handle but poisonous to eat.

    Traditional Gwich'in:





            Traditional Other:


            • In Germany it was called "Devil's Herb" and was associated with the spells of witches used to invoke the devil.
            • In literature, plants of this genus are used as a symbol of hatred or distrust of all people.
            • In Norway its was called "Odin's Helmet" because it resembled the tarn-helmet or cap of darkness, which made its wearer invisible.
            • Is one of the flowers dedicated to Hecate the Greek goddess of night and queen of hell.


            • Poison obtained from this plant was put on the tips of Inuit spears for killing whales.
            • The Greeks, Romans and Indians used it as a poison to tip their arrows, darts or spears.




                Flowers in bloom

                Flower front view

                Flower side view

                Palmately lobed leaf with long narrow divisions

                Flower bud preblooming

                Illustrated flora of BC

                Range Maps

                World Range: Amphi-Beringian; extending east to the Richardson and Mackenzie Mountains and south through AB and BC.

                Prov/State Abrev. List

                In Yukon: Found throughout the territory.

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