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Published In: Species Plantarum 1: 530. 1753. (1 May 1753) (Sp. Pl.) Name publication detailView in BotanicusView in Biodiversity Heritage Library
 

Project Name Data (Last Modified On 9/8/2017)
Acceptance : Accepted
 

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9. Delphinium L. (larkspur)

Plants taprooted annuals or perennial herbs with rhizomes or fascicles of fibrous to sometimes somewhat tuberous roots, occasionally dioecious but more commonly with perfect flowers. Stems erect or ascending, unbranched or with ascending branches. Leaves alternate and in a basal rosette (this sometimes absent at flowering time), when present the basal leaves usually larger than the stem leaves and with longer petioles. Leaf blades circular to broadly ovate, pentagonal, or kidney-shaped in outline, deeply palmately and/or ternately 2 or more times divided, the ultimate segments linear to lanceolate, oblanceolate, or narrowly oblong. Inflorescences terminal and sometimes also axillary racemes, these sometimes clustered into panicles, with few to many flowers. Flowers zygomorphic, perfect or occasionally imperfect. Sepals 5 (rarely more), petaloid, usually blue or purple to bluish- or purplish-tinged, less commonly pink or white, the upper sepal spurred, the lateral and lower sepals plane, not persistent at fruiting. Petals technically 2 (but then fused into a single 3-lobed structure) or 4 and not fused (the body then tapered abruptly to a stalklike base), white, to blue, purple, or pink, the fused petals or upper free petals spurred, the spur enclosed in the spur of the upper sepal. Stamens not showy, the anthers yellow to brown or almost black. Staminodes absent. Pistils 1 or 3(–5), each with 8–20 ovules. Style present, persistent at fruiting. Fruits follicles, more or less cylindric and somewhat curved, with a beak 1–4 mm long, the outer wall thick, prominently veined or not. Receptacle not enlarged at fruiting. Seeds semicircular to more or less trapezoidal in outline, sometimes with a longitudinal wing along 1 side, irregularly 3- or 4-angled in cross-section (sometimes appearing somewhat flattened), the surface sometimes scaly. About 340 species, North America, Europe, Asia, Africa.

Delphinium is here treated broadly to include the approxiametely 40 Old World species formerly segregated by some authors into the genus Consolida (DC.) Gray. These annuals differ from the remaining species of Delphinium in their flowers with only two petals that are fused into a 3-lobed structure and with only a single pistil. Recently, the molecular phylogenetic study of Delphinium and its relatives by Jabbour and Renner (2011) presented strong evidence that the Consolida group represents a specialized lineage within Delphinium that experienced a rapid diversification of species in the Mediterranean and adjacent regions.

Several larkspurs are cultivated as garden ornamentals and a number of cultivars exist, including some with doubled perianths. However, the exotic larkspurs generally do better in climates with the summers cooler than in Missouri, and only members of the D. ajacis group (rocket larkspurs) are grown very much in Missouri gardens. Aside from these, the principal species available horticulturally is the Eurasian D. elatum L. (tall larkspur), but D. grandiflorum L. (Chinese delphinium) and a variety of hybrids also are sold. In recent years, the native species of Delphinium, which are better adapted than the Old World taxa to Missouri’s hot summers and cold winters, also have been brought into cultivation and are sold at some wildflower nurseries.

Members of the genus are rich in alkaloids, especially delphinine, which renders them toxic to livestock and humans. For the same reason, larkspurs are considered relatively free from browsing by deer.

 
 
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