Closely related to Aconitum fischeri and part of that species according to some botanists[
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 bakeri Greene
Aconitum bulbiferum Howell
Aconitum delphinifolium ramosum (A.Nelson) K.C.Davis
Aconitum geranioides Greene
Aconitum glaberrimum Rydb.
Aconitum hansenii Greene
Aconitum howellii A.Nelson & J.F.Macbr.
Aconitum leibergii Greene
Aconitum lutescens A.Nelson
Aconitum macilentum Greene
Aconitum mogollonicum Greene
Aconitum nivatum A.Nelson
Aconitum obtusiflorum Greene
Aconitum ochroleucum (A. Nelson) Rydb.
Aconitum oregonsense Raf.
Aconitum patens Rydb.
Aconitum platysepalum Greene
Aconitum porrectum Rydb.
Aconitum ramosum A.Nelson
Aconitum robertianum Greene
Aconitum subcaesium Greene
Aconitum tricorne Greene
Aconitum vestitum Greene
Aconitum viviparum Greene
Aconitum columbianum is a herbaceous perennial plant with an erect to scandent stem 20 - 300cm long. The stem grows from a biennial tuberous root that produces a new tuber each year, the old tuber dying after the plant flowers[
]. One form of this plant (subspecies viviparum (Greene) Brink) produces bulbils in the leaf axils and sometimes in place of flowers in the inflorescence[
Although poisonous, the plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine. It is sometimes grown as an ornamental.
The whole plant is highly toxic - simple skin contact has caused numbness in some people. The roots and seeds are the most toxic and also the leaves just before the plant flowers[
Available information suggests that Aconitum columbianum is probably not one of the extremely toxic aconites[
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[
North-western N. America - Alaska to California.
Moist woods to sub-alpine meadows, mostly along streams[
]. Spring-fed bogs, seep areas, meadows, along streams, and in other wet areas at elevations of 300 - 3,500 metres[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
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.
Grows well in open woodlands[
Members of this genus seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits and deer[
A greedy plant, inhibiting the growth of nearby species, especially legumes[
A very variable plant, there is also a sub-species (A. Columbianum viviparum) that produces bulbils in the leaf axils[
The drug 'aconite' can be obtained from the root of this plant[
]. It is used as a heart and nerve sedative[
This is a very poisonous plant and should only be used with extreme caution and under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.
The seed is used as a parasiticide[
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.
Bulbils are an effective means of vegetative reproduction. They fall to the ground late in the season and sprout vigorously, giving rise to new plants[
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[
One to several small daughter tubers are produced at the first few nodes above the parent tuber, usually below ground, in a small percentage of the plants in bulbiferous and nonbulbiferous populations[
]. These can be removed and potted up to produce new plants[