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 bisma (Buch.-Ham.) Rapaics
Aconitum ferox palmatum (D.Don) Brühl
Caltha bisma Buch.-Ham.
Nirbisia bisma (Buch.-Ham.) G.Don
Aconitum palmatum is a herbaceous, perennial plant with an erect, branchless or nearly so, 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[
The plant is harvested from the wild for medicinal use.
One report says that this species has a non-poisonous root[
], though this should be treated with caution[
]. The following notes are based on the general toxicity of the genus.
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 - Himalayas in Nepal, Sikkim and south Tibet.
Alpine regions at elevations between 3,000 - 5,000 metres[
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[
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[
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[
The root of this species is said to be non-toxic[
], though some caution should be applied to this statement[
]. The root is antiperiodic and tonic[
]. It is used in the treatment of rheumatism and diarrhoea[
The root is somewhat farinaceous and the taste is purely and persistently bitter[
]. This strongly suggests the presence of toxic alkaloids[
The statements as to the properties of the root of this species are contradictory. It is said to be a strong bitter, like quinine, and very powerful in the cure of fevers[
]. The alkaloid in the root has been said to be as little toxic as the alkaloid ateesine, found in Aconitum heterophyllum[
]. Local people are said to believe the root is not poisonous[
On the other hand, there are other reports that the root is very toxic., though there are also suggestions that the roots had been confused with those of the very toxic Aconitum spicatum[
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[