Wondrous Larkspur

Larkspur (Delphinium consolida) belongs to the buttercup family of Ranunculaceae perennials.  Also called Lark’s Heel. Lark’s Toe. Lark’s Claw. Knight’s Spur.  The name Delphinium, from Delphin (dolphin), was given to this genus because the buds resemble a dolphin.  The name Consolida refers to the plant’s power of consolidating wounds.

The colorful Larkspur blooms from white, red, pink to blue, and violet. Larkspur Flowers are irregularly shaped and bloom in loose, vertical groupings along the upper end of the main stalk.   It grows best in climates that are moist and cool during the summer time. 

Baker’s Larkspur (Delphinium bakeri) and Yellow Larkspur (Delphinium luteum), native to some areas of California, are endangered species. Delphinium is a genus of about 250 species of annual, biennial or perennial flowering plants. The common name, which it shares with the genus, Consolida, is Larkspur. 

Identical in looks to perennial delphiniums, its tall spikes make beautiful cut flowers, with the two ideal varieties being the Larkspur rose (Consolida ambigua) and Consolida orientalis. The leaves are palmately lobed or palmately divided.  The varieties and colorings make it a highly marketable flower.  Although the flowers are fragile and short-lived in the vase, usually about seven days. 

All species of the plant is toxic to most animals, especially to cattle.  The seeds and stems contain polycyclic diterpene alkaloids, neuromuscular-blocking agents, which affect cholinergic and nicotinic receptors.  Although sheep do not seem to be affected by the Larkspur toxins and they are often used to help control the plant on the cattle ranges. 

Seeds should be sewn directly in the soil during the spring or the fall, wherever you want them to grow.  This plant does not like to be transplanted.  Space the seeds approximately six to eight inches apart and level with the soil’s surface.  Taller varieties can be staked to prevent damage in the wind and deadhead them, like day lilies, after flowering to encourage them to re-bloom. 

After the first frost, you can cut the stems back to an inch or two above the soil.  Divide the plants every three to four years, just as the new growth is beginning in the spring, by lifting the plants from the soil and dividing them into clumps.  You can trim them back in the late fall after the foliage dies. 

The plant seeds may be used medicinally, in tinctures that act as a natural paraticide and insecticide that can destroy lice and other insects.  

The tincture has been given in doses of ten plus drops to treat spasmodic asthma and dropsy.  The juice, extracted from the leaves is sometimes used to treat bleeding piles, while extracts from the flowers have been used to fight colic. 

Historically, the juice from the flower petals along with alum has been used as a blue colored ink.