A member of the buttercup family, there are over 250 species of Aconitum. They are rarely used as cut flowers, and the most commonly used species is the taller A. carmichaelii, while A. napellus is also sometimes found. Several flowers are borne per stem in a raceme, and the flowers have a very distinctive shape. One of the five sepals (the one at the back) is called the galea, and looks like a rounded hood. This explains the English name monkshood. Flowers come in blue, purple, white, yellow or pink, but only blue is found as a cut flower. They are very good garden plants in the cooler areas of southern Australia.
This is a very toxic plant, so take care to always wear gloves when handling.
Aconitum is commonly grown as a field crop. Most are grown in Victoria and Tasmania.
What to look for
- Buy when at least one of the lower flowers in a bunch is open and brightly coloured;
- Avoid bunches with faded and wrinkled flowers, or with flower drop when bunches are shaken.
- Always wear gloves when handling this flower.
- Keep cool at all times.
- Strip leaves from the bottom half of each stem and wash thoroughly.
- Recut at least 2 cm off each stem and place in water immediately.
- Always use a preservative as this will help keep open flowers looking fresh.
- Replace vase water with fresh preservative every 2 to 3 days.
- Very sensitive to ethylene. Keep them away from fruit, car exhausts and cigarette smoke.
Interesting Facts about this Flower
Aconitum is extremely poisonous, as it contains the alkaloid aconite, which has an anaesthetic effect and causes paralysis and heart attack. The poison is readily absorbed across the skin, so take great care to wear gloves while handling.
Traditionally, it was thought to have supernatural powers relating to werewolves. Its use is confusing, as it can either repel them or in some way induce the werewolf condition.
Wolfs bane has long been referred to in literature, and is used in potions class in Harry Potter!
Botanical Name: Aconitum carmichaelii, A. napellus
Common Names: Monk
Stem Length: 30 to 70 cm
Country of Origin: Northern Europe
Available Colours: Blue, White, Yellow