Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council Plants Resource Page

Plant of the Month - Blue Larkspur

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Plant Description

Common Name(s):Blue Larkspur
Scientific Name:Delphinium parryi, Delphinium patens
Family:Ranunculaceae
Plant Type:Perennial
Size:up to 36 inches
Habitat:Grasslands, edges or open spaces of Chaparral and Oak Woodland
Blooms:March to May

These two species of plant have similar-looking flowers but are most easily told apart by their different leaves. The common name Blue Larkspur usually refers to Delphinium parryi which has narrow palm-like leaves, while Spreading Larkspur is Delphinium patens and has broader 3-parted leaves. The flower stalks of Delphinium parryi are shorter (less than 1 1/2 inches) relative to Delphinium patens. Blooming occurs in June and July for the slender-leaved Delphinium parryi but earlier - March to May, or sometimes through summer into fall - for Delphinium patens.

The flowers of both species are a striking blue-purple and have the characteristic shape suggested by their common name. The spur of the flower is actually one of its 5 sepals. There are 4 petals, 2 white and the other 2 white or blue-purple. Leaves appear at the base of the plant.

These plants have narcotic properties (known for cattle poisoning) and were also used as a tincture to treat lice, scabies etc.

The species name Delphinium is Greek for dolphin, referring to the larkspur shape. The species name parryi is for Dr. Charles Christopher Parry, a 19th century botanist, and patens means spreading.

Contributed by Liz Baumann

Other Similar Plants:
Scarlet Larkspur Delphinium cardinale
Virgin's Bower Clematis lasiantha
California Buttercup Ranunculus californicus

Originally featured: July 2011
Last modified: May 12 2017 23:40:49.
References:
Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley
Flowering Plants: The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California, by Nancy Dale
Images Botanical Terms for Leaves