July Birth Flower
Derived from the Greek word "delphis" meaning dolphin, delphinium (its scientific name) are also commonly known as larkspur. The plant's name comes from the shape of the spur, which resembles the hind toe of a lark. Other names include Lark’s Claw, Knight’s Spur and Lark’s Heel (by Shakespeare). Larkspur (delphinium consolida) belongs to the buttercup family – Ranunculaceae. Native to Europe, it has naturalized throughout North America. Larkspur are among the showiest of all cultivated flowers. These flowers are almost as complex as the orchids.
The larkspur is a tall flower and the colors of the flower vary including purple, blue, red, yellow, and white. They need full sun and should have some protection from high winds because the hollow flower stalks, though strong, are often so covered with flowers that thay can break in the breeze. The flower spikes can reach heights of about 36 – 72 inches. Larkspur’s tall, upright habit makes the flower a good and suitable choice for fence and the back of the border.
Foliage is lacy and dark green. The flowers are open, they contain a single follicle of fruit, instead of a cluster. The petals of the flower grow together forming a spur at the end and thus giving the plant its name, Larkspur. The most favored varieties are rather closely packed on tall spikes, and often attaining a height of 5 – 6 feet. Each of its flower is made up of single or double row of brightly colored sepals and the common color is blue. There are tiny fringelike petals at the center of each flower, often covering the pistils and stamens. There are also two sacs filled with nectar inside the spur which attracts hummingbirds and bees.
This short-lived perennial lasts 2 to 3 years and are generally considered garden plants. The flowers of larkspur tend to be very fragile and relatively short lived in the vase (under a week), making production for local markets more lucrative. Larkspur flowers start blooming in Spring, while other many flowers still have weeks ahead to start blooming. Larkspurs are rhizomes and the rhizomes can be separated from the established plants and then can be replanted in new areas. Because the plants are highly susceptible to frost and extreme heat, they tend to favor moderate climates, and will die back in the heat of summer.
All parts of the plant contain an alkaloid delphinine and are very poisonous, causing vomiting when eaten, and death in larger amounts. Domestic sheep are apparently not affected by the toxins in larkspur. Therefore sheep are sometimes used to help eradicate the plant on cattle range.
The plant’s toxicity may vary depending on field conditions and seasonal changes; as the plant matures, generally it becomes less toxic. The alkaloids in the plant can cause neuromuscular paralysis; clinical effects include constipation, increased salivation, colic, stiffness, muscle tremors, weakness, convulsions and recumbency. Cardiac failure may occur, as can death from respiratory paralysis.
Health Benefits and Uses
In small amount however the larkspur has been used in medicine. Some conditions that have been treated with delphinium are insect bites, parasitic infestation, dropsy, and asthma. It was also historically used for eye complaints and is associated with Saint Odile, the patron saint of eye and ear diseases. It is believed that drinking the seed could help the sting from a scorpion, and that putting it in your hair can help kill lice and nits. The juice of the flowers, mixed with alum, gives a blue ink. In Transylvania, because of the blue color, It is used on the stables to ward away witches. The larkspur is the July birth flower. The flower has a meaning of lightness and levity.
Delphinium is a genus of about 250 species of annual, perennial or biennial flowering plants. Larkspur is the common name, shared with the closely related genus Consolida. Yellow larkspur ( D. luteum) and baker’s larkspur (delphinium baken), native to certain areas of California, are endangered species. Delphinium ajacis is the most commonly grown species of annual larkspur. Delphinium elatum is a larkspur of a perennial form that has similar growing requirements. Larkspur look identical to perennial Delphiniums.
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