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Dwarf Larkspur

Dwarf Larkspur

Dwarf Larkspur

Losses rarely occur in sheep or horses, but if subjected to sudden physical activity after ingesting large amounts of larkspur, these animals may die. Plants are most toxic during early growth, but toxicity gradually declines over the growing season. However, toxin levels may increase in the flowers and pods even late in the season. The toxic substances are mixtures of several alkaloids. These alkaloids and their relative toxicity and concentrations vary between individual plants, at different locations and between larkspur species. The method of toxicity has been identified as neuro-muscular paralysis, leading to respiratory failure, bloat and often death.:There is no proven treatment for larkspur poisoning. It has been suggested that poisoned animals be treated with cholinergic drugs such as physostigmine or neostigmine. Though such treatment can reverse some of the clinical changes, their effects on larkspur's lethal effects are unproven. It may be that the stress and excitement of treatment outweigh any beneficial therapeutic effects. Currently conservative therapy such as placing an affected animal on its brisket or chest with its head uphill to reduce bloating and treating bloat are recommended. Most important is to avoid unduly exciting affected animals until they can clear the larkspur toxins.The flowers are cross-pollinated by long-tongued bees primarily, including bumblebees, Anthophorid bees (Anthophora spp., Ptilothrix bombiformis, Synhalonia speciosa), and miner bees (Osmia spp.). These insects suck nectar and sometimes collect pollen. Other floral visitors include the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, Giant Bee Fly (Bombylius major), swallowtail butterflies (Papilio spp.), other butterflies, skippers, and Sphinx moths. However, the bee fly, butterflies, skippers, and moths are probably less effective pollinators. Insect that feed destructively on Spring Larkspur and other larkspurs (Delphinium spp.) include the aphid Brachycaudus rociadae (found on stems & leaves), flower-eating caterpillars of the moth Heliothis phloxiphagus (Dark-spotted Straw), and maggots of a leaf-miner fly, Phytomyza aconiti. The foliage of Dwarf Larkspur is toxic to most mammalian herbivores.

The attractive flowers have the shape of the little starmen in children's cartoons. Dwarf Larkspur is shorter and blooms earlier than other Delphinium spp. – this is an adaptation to its woodland habitat. It is distinctive in having 3 widely spreading follicles per flower, while many other Delphinium spp. have follicles that are more or less united at the base. There is some variation in color of the flowers, appearance of the leaves, and hairiness of the stalks and leaves across different populations of Dwarf Larkspur. The only other species in this genus that is native to Illinois, Delphinium carolinianum (Tall Larkspur), consists of an eastern subspecies with pale blue to blue-violet flowers and a western subspecies with pale blue or white flowers (the latter subspecies is often called Prairie Larkspur). Compared to Dwarf Larkspur, Tall Larkspur has more finely divided leaves. Various larkspurs (Delphinium spp.) are often cultivated in flower gardens, but they are usually native to areas that lie west of Illinois, or they are annual species (Consolida spp.) from the Mediterranean area of Europe. (Source:www.illinoiswildflowers.info)

 

 

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