Delphinium carolinianum (Carolina Larkspur)
|Also known as:||Prairie Larkspur|
|Habitat:||sun; dry prairies and woods|
|Bloom season:||June - July|
|Plant height:||1 to 3 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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A sparsely to densely arranged spike-like cluster of irregular shaped flowers with a spur at the back. Individual flowers are about ¾ inch wide with 5 uneven petals; each petal usually has a dark smudge in the middle (looks polka-dotted) and is white to pale blue. The lower petals are “bearded” (see photo below). There are many stamens with brownish tips that may be curled up inside the flower.
Leaves and stem:
Palmately compound leaves, about 3 inches across, are deeply divided into 5 or more primary sections, each with several narrow lobes. Basal leaves are long stalked and typically wither away by flowering time. Leaf stalks become shorter as leaves ascend the stem, the uppermost leaves with stalks 1/8 inch or longer. Leaf attachment is alternate with leaves often widely spaced on the stem. Stems are a brownish color, covered in fine hairs, velvety to the touch, and unbranched.
There are 4 recognized varieties of Delphinium carolinianum, most of which have regional distributions in the southeast and south central US. They are distinguished by several factors: basal leaves present or absent at flowering time, number of primary divisions in the leaves, and flowers mostly blue or white; var. virescens, which is present in Minnesota and central states west of the Mississippi, has primarily white flowers, sometimes pale blue, and leaves with 5 or more primary divisions.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Carolina Larkspur plant
- Carolina Larkspur habitat
- garden-grown Carolina Larkspur
- close-up of the flower “beard”
Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County, and in a private garden in Anoka County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?