Sunday, October 6, 2013

What's in a name, Delphinium?

Back in September I went to our botanical gardens auxiliary fall plant sale. The  auxiliary does a wonderful job a putting the plant sales together besides all the other hard work (all volunteers) they do for the gardens. Naturally I came home with a few more plants for the garden; a couple of Lime Ricky hostas, a couple of maidenhair ferns, a false indigo or baptisia, a Jacob's Ladder (boreale) and two delphiniums labelled D. exaltatum.


The delphiniums are native to the eastern USA, and are quite tall at four feet high, thus their common name Tall Larkspur. Late summer and early fall is the time of year when they bloom and that they are blue/purple is a bit of a bonus. 



However, I am not convinced that what I have are Tall Larkspur. I snipped the flowering stalks off to hasten my plants rooting abilities for the winter and popped them into a tiny glass. I have taken photos over a weeks period but the flower buds will not open fully or perhaps in the same way photos online show. Therefore I am having trouble confirming their actual name.






In the end I suppose it does not really matter as the flowers are pretty, quite delicate looking, and a mild purple blue in colour. What I do hope is that they will survive the winter and I will have another chance to see the plants in bloom once more.

A bit of delphinium lore:

From the Greek word Delphis meaning Dolphin, it most likely refers to the shape of the  the flower or nectary. Shakespeare actually calls it the “Lark’s heel” and it is also known as the lark’s claw and the knight’s spur. It is also said that the Greeks named this flower after Apollo, the god of the city of Delphi.

The common name "larkspur" is shared between perennial Delphinium species and annual species of the genus Consolida. They are members of buttercup family. This is a genus with about 300 species that are all flowering plants. The larkspur plant is native to the Northern hemisphere and can handle some colder temperatures and shorter periods of sunshine. The plant can grow as tall as 6 feet. The flower blooms are typically purple, but can also be blue, red, white, or yellow.

The seeds are small and often shiny black. All parts of these plants are considered toxic to humans, causing severe digestive discomfort if ingested, and also skin irritation.

The plants flower from late spring to late summer, and are pollinated by butterflies and bumble bees. Delphinium species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including the dot moth and small angle shades.



12 comments:

  1. It looks like a larkspur or native delphinium to me. It's quite different from the cultivars. But it's pretty, regardless, and that's all that matters. :o)

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    1. Hi Tammy, it is pretty - I am hoping it is a perennial larkspur and not an annual. I really would like to see it again next year.

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  2. Hi Patty
    I am terrible at identifying plants so all I can say is that it sure is puhr-ty and I hope it does reappear next year. It sounds as if you bought other great plants! Thx for the bit of folklore at the end - always interesting to read. Astrid

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    1. Hi Astrid, it IS difficult to turn away from a plant sale with great prices. I just realized I wrote Lime Ricky hosta WRONG -heuchera.

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  3. The flowers look really pretty in a vase. You are a sensible gardener to snip the flowering stalks off to hasten rooting. I can never bring myself to do that because I have very few flowers in my garden.

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    1. Denise I find it really hard to do too, but our weather has been cool this year and I couldn't take the chance on a cold fall with new plants.

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  4. They look like what I have been told is Larkspur. None are blooming around here that I have seen. I was just in the meadows at the Falls to gather wildflowers and would have clipped them since they are such a pretty blue/purple.

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    1. Hi Donna, Twice I have tried to grow the dwarf delphiniums in that gorgeous cobalt blue and twice they died after flowering. I am hoping these beauties are made of stronger stuff.

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  5. I love this plant but have never been able to grow it successfully...fascinating lore.

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    1. If it lives over the winter I will post about it Donna and we can do a happy dance :)

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  6. I've had mixed results with Delphiniums. The grew quite happily here for several summers, and then we had a very hot summer and they passed on. I tried them a couple more times, and believe it or not--the ones I planted last year before the terrible drought rebloomed again this year--in late May or early June. Yours are very pretty!

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    1. Hmm, obviously finicky plants PP. I am glad to hear of your success. Try, and try again?

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