Ranunculaceae / Buttercups
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Medical Uses: In Europe Larkspurs have been used for a variety of medical uses including to help close
wounds. The main use of the plant has long been to kill human parasites, especially lice and their nits (eggs). It was used
by Wellington's troops at Waterloo and by Union soldiers during the American Civil War.
Warning: This plant is toxic! The stem and seeds contain alkaloids, the glycoside delphinine and aconitic acid plus other unidentified substances. Only Locoweed kills more cattle in the American West. The alkaloids effect the nervous system causing one to become weak and eventually bring on respiratory failure.
Similar Species: Tall Larkspur (D.
exaltatum) and D. carolinianum can reach 1.8m (6') in height and have more leaves and flowers. The many
varieties of Larkspur grown in flower gardens come form the European species Rocket Larkspur (D. ajacis) or
Forking Larkspur (D. consolida). These have escaped cultivation in some areas. They have thinly divided leaves
often described as feather like but the flowers are very similar.
One of the best general guides to wildflowers of the North Eastern and North Central United States. Newcomb's key is an excellent, simple method for identifying plants. Newcomb has drawings for almost every plant mentioned that are excellent aids to identifying the species. Though only the more common plants are covered this is often the first book I pick up when trying to identify a wildflower.
This is perhaps the best of many field guides covering this region. Featuring 446 excellent color photographs (located with the text) and mentioning as similar to those illustrated are another 800 or so species for a total coverage of over 1,200 species. The start of each family section includes line drawings of some of the species showing important features. The text includes the usual description, bloom season, range, habitat and additionally includes information such as medical uses and lore and how the species was named. This is the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society.
Angiosperms / Flowering Plants
Dicots / Two Seed Leaves