Monkshood Aconitum carmichaelii (Wilsonii Group) 'Barker's Variety'

☠ Toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Hard-care
monk's hood 'Barker's Variety'


'Barker's Variety' is a cultivar known for its striking and vividly colored flowers. The plant displays a lush mound of deeply divided, glossy, dark green leaves that look like they have been carefully sliced into many separate segments. Each leaf consists of numerous lobed leaflets, creating a textured and intricate appearance. From the foliage rise tall, rigid spires that carry hood-shaped flowers in a showy display. These blooms are typically a deep blue or purple hue, which adds a dramatic touch to the garden scene. The flowers themselves are made up of a large, helmet-like upper sepal that covers the rest of the petals and stamens, a design characteristic of the common name associated with this plant. The blooms are densely packed along the spires, making them very conspicuous during their flowering season. As the flowers age, they form seed pods that add an additional decorative element to the plant. The seed pods elongate, contrasting against the foliage and spent flowers. The overall aspect of 'Barker's Variety' is one of a majestic and bold ornamentation, typically attracting attention whether planted in a border, as a focal point, or grouped together in the landscape.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Monkshood, Wolfsbane, Devil's Helmet, Queen of Poisons, Blue Rocket

    • Common names

      Aconitum carmichaelii 'Barker's Variety'

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Monkshood, including the 'Barker's Variety', is highly toxic to humans if ingested. Its toxicity is due to a potent toxin known as aconitine, which affects the nervous system. Symptoms of monkshood poisoning can appear within a few minutes to a few hours after ingestion and may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, dizziness, confusion, heart palpitations, and tingling or numbness on the skin. In severe cases, it can lead to muscle paralysis, heart arrhythmias, and death from respiratory failure or cardiac arrest.

    • To pets

      Monkshood is also extremely toxic to pets, including dogs, cats, and horses. The 'Barker's Variety' contains the same dangerous toxin, aconitine, that affects animals much like it does humans. When a pet ingests monkshood, symptoms can manifest quickly, ranging from mild to severe. These can include drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, seizures, heart rhythm disturbances, and paralysis. Ingestion can be fatal if not treated immediately, leading to severe respiratory and cardiac complications.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      2-4 feet [60-120 cm]

    • Spread

      1-2 feet [30-60 cm]

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Ornamental Appeal: The plant has striking blue or purple flowers that add visual interest and beauty to garden landscapes.
    • Attracts Pollinators: It is attractive to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators which are essential for the pollination of many plants and crops.
    • Drought Tolerance: Once established, the plant is relatively drought tolerant, making it suitable for gardens in drier climates or for low-water landscapes.
    • Cold Hardy: Monkshood is adept at surviving cold temperatures and is suitable for planting in colder regions.
    • Deer and Rabbit Resistant: Its toxicity makes it less palatable to many herbivores, so it's less likely to be damaged by deer and rabbits.
    • Seasonal Interest: It blooms in late summer to early fall, offering color and interest during a time when many other plants may be declining.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    This plant is not used for medical purposes.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • As a source of blue dye: The roots of Monkshood have historically been used to create a blue dye for textiles.
    • Photography: Juice from the plant can be used in the blueprinting process, a photographic printing process that creates a cyan blue print, due to its photosensitive properties.
    • Warning signal in gardens: Monkshood's vibrant colors and distinctive shape can be used as a visual signal to mark the location of less visible or smaller hazardous plants or objects in a garden.
    • Pest deterrent: The toxicity of Monkshood may serve as a natural deterrent to some herbivores and pests in the garden, though this should be used with caution as it can be dangerous to other wildlife and pets.
    • Education: Monkshood can serve as a teaching tool in educational settings for discussions on plant toxicity, wildlife interactions, and the importance of plant safety.
    • Historical reenactment: The plant can be used in historical gardens or for reenactment purposes to represent authentic medieval or ancient garden designs.
    • Floral arrangements: While highly toxic, Monkshood's flowers can be used with extreme caution in floral arrangements for their striking appearance.
    • Museums and botanical gardens: Monkshood can be exhibited to showcase a variety of toxic plants of historical and cultural significance.
    • Theme gardens: They can be a fit for 'witches' gardens' or other dark-themed botanical collections due to their historical association with witchcraft and poisoning.
    • Art inspiration: The unique and bold look of Monkshood can serve as inspiration for artists in creating botanical illustrations, paintings, and sculptures.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    Monkshood is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    Monkshood is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Caution: Aconitum, commonly known as Monkshood, is known for its toxic properties. In symbolism, it represents the need for caution, as the plant can be fatally poisonous.
    • Protection: Historically, Monkshood was thought to protect against evil spirits and nefarious creatures. Its symbolism of protection roots in the idea that something so toxic could ward off malevolent forces.
    • Misfortune: Due to its toxicity, Monkshood is often associated with bad luck or misfortune, symbolizing the darker aspects of life and nature.
    • Power: The potent effects of Monkshood signify power and strength, symbolizing the ability to subdue or overcome challenges, albeit with caution.
    • Chivalry: In certain cultures, Monkshood symbolizes chivalry, as knights in the Middle Ages were believed to have worn the plant for protection.

Every 1-2 weeks
2500 - 10000 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Late Summer to Early Autumn
As needed
  • water dropWater

    Monkshood 'Barker's Variety' prefers consistently moist soil, so it should be watered deeply once or twice a week, depending on weather conditions. During hot, dry spells, the plant may need more frequent watering. Generally, aim to provide about 1 inch of water weekly; if you're using gallons, that would translate to approximately 0.5 gallons for a small plant and up to 2 gallons for a larger, well-established plant. Ensure that the soil is well-draining to prevent waterlogging, which can cause root rot. It's best to water early in the morning to allow foliage to dry before nightfall, which can help prevent diseases.

  • sunLight

    Monkshood 'Barker's Variety' thrives best in partial shade to full sun. It can tolerate full sun in cooler climates but will need protection from the hot midday sun in warmer areas to prevent scorching. An ideal spot would be one where the plant receives morning sun and afternoon shade, or dappled sunlight throughout the day, which is particularly important in hot summer regions.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Monkshood 'Barker's Variety' is hardy and can handle a temperature range from the high 20s to the mid-70s Fahrenheit. They are capable of surviving short periods of colder temperatures down to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit but should be protected from prolonged freezing conditions. The ideal growing temperature for Monkshood 'Barker's Variety' is between 50 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, where the plant will flourish and grow robustly.

  • scissorsPruning

    Monkshood 'Barker's Variety' should be pruned to maintain shape and health; deadheading spent flowers encourages more blooms. Prune back to the ground in late fall or early winter after the plant has died back naturally. Pruning is necessary once a year, and the best time is after the flowering period, typically in late summer or early fall, to tidy up the plant and prepare it for the next growing season.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Monkshood 'Barker's Variety' prefers moist, well-draining soil enriched with organic matter. The best soil mix can be achieved by combining loam, peat, and sand to ensure good drainage. Aim for a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0, slightly acidic to neutral.

  • plantRepotting

    Monkshood 'Barker's Variety' is typically not repotted often, as it is a perennial plant best left undisturbed once established. Division or replanting should occur every 2-3 years in early spring to maintain vitality.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Monkshood 'Barker's Variety' fares well in average garden humidity levels; it does not require any special humidity considerations. Aim to mimic the humidity levels found in its natural woodland habitat.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Ensure bright indirect light, cool temps, and moist soil.

    • Outdoor

      Plant in partial shade, enrich soil, keep moist, protect from wind.

    • Hardiness zone

      3-7 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Aconitum carmichaelii 'Barker's Variety', commonly known as Monkshood, begins its life cycle as a dormant tuberous root in winter, which sprouts in spring when soil temperatures rise and daylight increases. The plant develops a rosette of basal leaves followed by the growth of sturdy stems bearing deeply lobed, green leaves. By late summer to early fall, it produces dense clusters of hooded, deep blue to violet flowers atop tall stalks, attracting pollinators such as bees. After pollination, the flowers develop into follicles containing numerous seeds, which ripen and are dispersed by wind or wildlife, potentially establishing new plants. In the absence of disturbance, the plant may enter a vegetative state for the next year where it relies on stored energy in its root system to survive the winter. The life cycle is perennial, with the plant returning yearly to bloom in the cooler seasons before dying back to the ground by late fall, enduring winter in a period of dormancy.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Late Summer to Early Autumn

    • Aconitum carmichaelii 'Barker's Variety', commonly known as Monkshood, is best propagated by division, a method favored for its reliability and relative simplicity. The ideal time for dividing Monkshood plants is in the early spring when they are just emerging from dormancy, or in the fall once flowering has ceased and the plant has begun to die back. To propagate by division, carefully dig up the entire plant, ensuring to get as much of the root system as possible. The root clump can then be gently pulled apart into smaller sections, with each section having at least one growth bud or eye. These divisions should be replanted promptly at the same soil depth they were originally growing, spaced about 18 to 24 inches (approximately 45 to 60 centimeters) apart to accommodate future growth. Water the new plantings well to help establish them. This method of vegetative propagation not only produces new plants that are true to the parent but also invigorates older clumps that may have become too dense over time.