Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Plant of the Week: Monkshood

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In college, I was required to take a course called Herbaceous Perennials.  It seemed like all we did that semester was memorize the latin and common names of the perennials widely grown in the Midwest.  I used all sorts of mnemonic devices and tricks when it came to studying for our identification tests.  And I was always releived to come across “freebies” like monkshood that were a cinch to remember.  On close inspection, the bloom looks like a helmet or hood.

Genus:  Aconitum

Other common names include friar’s cap, wolfbane, and turk’s cap.

Family:  Ranunculaceae

Other plants in this family include delphinium, meadow rue, clematis and buttercup.

The tall blue-purple spikes of monkshood could easily be confused with delphinium (the delphinium will have spurs on the bloom) on first glance.  The showy blooms grow 3-4 feet tall and perform best in partial shade and consistenly moist soil.  The above photo was take in October, making monkshood a lovely late summer-fall bloomer when other perennials are beginning to look ratty.  Monkshood foliage is similar to perennial geranium, with a deeply serated, palmate leaf.

Take  note: all parts of monkshood is highly toxic.  The plant has a long history – dating back centuries – of being used as a poison.

See you in the gardens.

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Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

January 24, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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