The genus Aconitum worldwide is notorious for complex patterns of morphologic intergradation that blur the lines between taxa. Aconites from different regions may be morphologically distinct but connected by a series of intermediate races[
]. There have been huge differences of opinion between botanists as to how to define a species in this genus, with the Flora of N. America recognizing around 100 species worlwide[
], whilst the Flora of China recognizes 211 species in China alone and around 400 species worldwide[
]. We are following the proposed treatment in the 'World Checklist of Selected Plant Families', which is still under review, but currently (2016) recognizes about 320 distinct species (391 including hybrids and infraspecific forms) and over 1,000 synonyms[
Aconitum dissectum Watt
Aconitum hians Watt
Aconitum violaceum robustum Stapf
Aconitum chasmanthum is an erect, herbaceous perennial plant producing an unbranched stem 60 - 120cm tall. The stem grows from a biennial tuberous root that produces a new tuber each year, the old tuber dying after the plant flowers[
Aconitum chasmanthum is one of several Aconite species in the Himalayas that are highly traded for medicinal use in India. The roots and tubers, which contain alkaloids, are used in the Ayurvedic and Homeopathic systems of medicine, and are collected and traded in huge quantities from alpine and subalpine meadows.
The plant is is harvested for its tubers, which constitute the Ayurvedic plant drug 'Vatsanabha', and which is included in the Ayurvedic Formulary of India. During collection the whole plant is uprooted. It has been observed, as well as inferred, that the trend of unsustainable collection practice is continuing and more than 80% of the wild population in the Himalayan region of India had declined in the 10 years up to 2003, and that this trend has continued up to 2015. In addition, habitat loss continues due to the construction of high altitude roads and occurrence of avalanches. The plant is classified as 'Critically Endangered' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2013)[
The whole plant is highly toxic - simple skin contact has caused numbness in some people[
The aconites have been of interest since ancient times because they contain diterpene alkaloids that range from relatively nontoxic to deadly poisonous. In various parts of the world they have been used medicinally and as a source of poisons throughout history. The use of Aconitum alkaloids in modern Western medicine was largely discontinued by the late 1930's and early 1940's, though the roots are still widely used in traditional medicine, especially in Asia[
E. Asia - Western Himalayas from Pakistan to Indian Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh
Growing amongst shrubs in the alpine and subalpine zones of the western Himalayas at elevations from 2,100 - 3,300 metres[
]. Mountains at elevations around 4,600 metres[
|Conservation Status||Critically Endangered
Thrives in most soils and in the light shade of trees[
]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Prefers a moist soil in sun or semi-shade[
]. Prefers a calcareous soil.
Members of this genus seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits and deer[
Grows well in open woodlands[
A greedy plant, inhibiting the growth of nearby species, especially legumes[
All Aconitum species are prohibited for export in India if the plants have been collected from the wild. Cultivated specimens can be exported from India. This species has been proposed for inclusion in the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) appendices but is yet to be included
The dried root is analgesic, anodyne, diaphoretic, diuretic, irritant and sedative[
]. The root is a rich source of active alkaloids, containing around 3%[
]. It is best harvested as soon as the plant dies down in the autumn[
This is a very poisonous plant and should only be used with extreme caution and under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.
The plant contains the alkaloid aconitine[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[
]. The seed can be stratified and sown in spring but will then be slow to germinate[
]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer.
Division - best done in spring but it can also be done in autumn[
]. Another report says that division is best carried out in the autumn or late winter because the plants come into growth very early in the year[