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Names: The genus Delphinium has over 300 species in the world. The name is derived from the Greek delphinion which in turn is from delphin, and is thought to have been applied for the possible resemblance of the flowers of some species to classical Greek sculptures of dolphins. The species, exaltatum, means very tall. The author name for the plant classification, of 1789 - ‘Aiton’ is for William Aiton (1731-1793), Scottish botanist, who succeeded Philip Miller as superintendent of the Chelsea Physic Garden and then became director of Kew Gardens, where he published Hortus Kewensis, the Garden’s catalogue of plants.
Comparisons: The common name of Larkspur has been applied to all the Delphiniums due to the shape of the flower. Several Eurasian species have been introduced to North America and cultivated as ornamentals - these being your typical garden variety of Delphinium. The native species are not known to naturalize. With so many species, close comparison is needed to distinguish species. The native species that closely resembles Tall Larkspur is the Dwarf Larkspur, D. tricorne, but there the flower is always usually white and it blooms earlier in the summer. The single species of Delphinium that is native to Minnesota is D. carolinianum subsp. virescens, which also has white flowers, but less than 10, and is usually no more than 1 to 2+ feet high and the spur is tilted upward, sometimes 90º to the flower stalk.Delphinium exaltatum is an attractive and floriferous native woodland-edge perennial that is equally at home in the home garden border. Growing to a height of 4’, this summer-blooming perennial has attractive medium-green, palmate leaves and narrow stalks of showy, deep blue-purple flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Tall larkspur excels in moisture-retentive, well-drained, humus-rich, slightly alkaline soil and prefers filtered shade to full sun. Delphinium exaltatum is an attractive addition to the garden when planted en masse with Coreopsis tripteris, Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’, Vernonia angustifolia, Silphium simpsonii, and Veroniastrum virginicum.
This summer, the NPS Ozark Highlands fire ecology crew discovered the largest population of the nationally-rare tall larkspur (Delphinium exaltatum) in a prescribed fire management unit anywhere. According to www.natureserve.org, “A primary threat to tall larkspur is loss of habitat due to succession of vegetation in the absence of a natural fire regime (Pyne 1994). Encroachment of trees and shrubs (e.g., Eastern red cedar) into occupied habitat has likely resulted in the loss of many individuals and populations over time.” Go back to Summer Flower Roundup Click on a thumbnail to view a larger image. Use your left and right arrow keys on your keyboard.This attractive wildflower will persist naturally without fire for decades on some sunny steep slopes and the sunny banks of small high-gradient streams. This is especially true if windstorms, ice storms, or beavers thin the tree canopy. However, only fire will prevent leaf litter accumulation from suppressing tall larkspur seedling germination over most of its preferred habitat. (Source: www.nps.gov)