The Monkshood Plant (Aconite)

Aconitum columbianum by Eric in SF

By now readers know how excited this GardenLady gets when a flower finally bursts into bloom. To this end I want to let everyone know that my monkshood flowers (aconitum) have finally opened. Books generally say this flower opens in mid to late summer. Mine opens in late September or October.

Wolf’s Bane by helen.2006

I bought this flowering plant reluctantly.

Before I discovered the effectiveness of Liquid Fence to spray on plants to prevent deer from eating everything, I sadly complained to friends that I could not raise flowers or vegetables on my property. At that point it seemed that the deer ate everything. A friend told me to get Monkshood or aconite plants because not only did they have have pretty flowers that looked like the purple hood of a medieval monk (see here), it seemed that deer didn’t touch the plant. Deer aren’t stupid. They seem to know which plants are toxic. I wish I understood how they get this knowledge. And Monkshood plants are toxic.

Because I knew of the plant’s toxicity, I feared having it on my property. In a way, I realize how silly I was because there are a lot of pretty flowering plants that are toxic if eaten. Besides being poisonous when eaten, the Monkshood plant can also cause an allergic reaction to some people if just touched. It is said that Monkshood makes pretty cut flowers, but if you touch the plants while putting them in a vase, you should wash your hands thoroughly. Even though I do not have children living at home, I planted my Monkshood in the back of my house in an area that is terraced and therefore out of the way. Nothing ever steps in its location. And as pretty as the flower is, even though I have never seemed to have an allergic reaction when I touched the plant to tie it up when it flopped, I didn’t bring it indoors for floral arrangements. Why worry that someone may touch it when it is in a vase?

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