A single-stemmed herbaceous perennial with an upright flower stalk bearing racemes of bluish-purple flowers. Flowers irregular, with 5 showy, petal-like sepals; the true petals are reduced to inconsequential appendages. One sepal extends backward, forming a long spur. There may be few to many flowers, terminal along a raceme, in shades of blue, violet, white, and mixtures of these. Blooms April–June. Leaves few, shaped like an outstretched hand, deeply divided into linear segments.
Similar species: There are 4 species of Delphinium recorded for Missouri.
Height: 6–10 inches; may reach to 18 inches later.
Habitat and Conservation
Occurs in open wooded slopes, ledges, valleys, ravines, streamsides, and below bluffs.
“Delphinium,” the genus name, is from the Greek word for “dolphin,” describing the curving shape of the flower spurs. “Tricorne,” the species epithet, is from Latin and means “with three horns,” and describes the shape of the fruit.
Larkspurs, as a group, are toxic to eat, and cattle are frequently poisoned by them, especially in spring when the plants are most actively growing and most toxic. Some larkspurs are popular garden plants, and this species is one that can be cultivated.
Bumblebees drill holes into the spurs to collect nectar; bees pollinate the flowers. Other visitors include butterflies, skippers, moths, flies, and hummingbirds. Moth larvae and leaf miners eat the leaves, and aphids suck the sap. The foliage is toxic to mammals, which avoid it.