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 beckianum Gáyer
Aconitum croaticum Degen & Gáyer
Aconitum gracilescens Gáyer
Aconitum lasianthum (Rchb.) Simonk.
Aconitum lasiostomum velutinum Rchb.
Aconitum lycoctonum vulparia (Rchb.) Nyman
Aconitum pauciflorum Host
Aconitum penninum (Ser.) Gáyer
Aconitum puberulum (Ser.) Gáyer
Aconitum thalianum (Wallr.) Gáyer
Aconitum tragoctonum Rchb.
Aconitum velebiticum Degen ex Gáyer
Aconitum velutinum (Rchb.) Grinț.
Common Name: Wolfbane
Aconitum vulparia is a herbaceous perennial plant with a tall, erect stem[
Although toxic, the plant is sometimes harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine.
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[
Europe to Asia
Woods and bushy places in damp shady places
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[
An aggregate species which is divided by some botanists into many species.
Some reports suggest the root is edible if cooked[
], but these should be treated with extreme caution due to the highly toxic nature of the plant[
The root is analgesic, anodyne, antirheumatic, diaphoretic, diuretic, irritant, sedative[
The root contains the alkaloid aconitine. In excess it can cause vertigo, diarrhea, hypertension, shivering, tachycardia and respiratory paralysis[
This is a very poisonous plant and should only be used with extreme caution and under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.
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[