This tall, stately flowering plant, has a dark secret - it is believed to be one of the most poisonous plants grown in the UK.
Family: Ranunculaceae (buttercup)
Botanical Name: Aconitum
Common Names: aconite, blue rocket, devil's helmet, leopard's bane, mousebane, monkshood, wolf's bane, women's bane, queen of poisons.
Foliage: Deciduous, green deeply lobed leaves.
Flowers: tall spikes of hooded blue or white/creamy flowers.
Flowering Period: Late summer to Autumn.
Soil: Moist fertile soil, improved with plenty of well-rotted organic matter. Best in clay or loam.
Conditions: Best in part shade. Site it in a north, east or west facing aspect, in a sheltered possition.
Type: Herbaceous perennial.
Origin: Native to Europe and Asia.
Hardiness: Most varieties are fully hardy in the UK.
Toxicity: CAUTION, toxic if eaten/harmful via skin. All parts of this plant, including the pollen, are highly toxic. Always wear gloves and protective clothing when handling, planting, pruning or propagating Aconitum. For further information see The Poison Garden.
Due to its toxicity, we do NOT recommend growing Aconitum in domestic household gardens. There are plenty of alternative plants of a similar colour and form that can be grown instead.
As woodland plants they prefer a cool, damp, shady site but will tollerate sun if the soil is kept moist (but not water-logged) and well cultivated with organic matter.
Cut down in autumn after flowering and dispose of plant waste with the utmost care. See Caution above.
Generally disease free. Can be affected by powdery mildews.
Slow to germinate from seed. Can be divided in the spring or autumn.
A. 'Arendsii' has large blue flowers on strong straight stems. Height to 4ft (1.2m).
A. carmichaelii (Wilsonii Group) has violet blue flowers. Height to 5ft (1.5m).
A. Napellus (Europe, Asia) has deeply cut green foliage and rich blue flowers. Height to 3ft (90cm). Good cultivars include 'Bressingham Spire' (violet-blue), 'Bicolor' (blue and white flowers) and 'Spark's Variety' (violet-blue).