Monkshood Aconitum × cammarum 'Bicolor'
The Aconitum × cammarum 'Bicolor', commonly known as Monkshood, is a striking perennial noted for its eye-catching flowers. The plant is characterized by its unique blooms that display a blend of two colors, typically a deep blue-violet at the edges transitioning into a contrasting white or pale color towards the center. These helmet-shaped flowers, which give the plant its common name due to their resemblance to a monk's cowl, are arranged in dense, elongated clusters atop sturdy, upright stems. The foliage of Monkshood 'Bicolor' is equally attractive, with deeply divided and toothed leaves. These leaves are generally lush, dark green in color, and palmate, which means they spread out from the stem like fingers emanate from a palm. The texture of the leaves appears somewhat glossy and leathery, magnifying the plant's ornamental appeal. Monkshood 'Bicolor' provides a rich tapestry of color and form, with its dramatic two-toned flowers and substantial leafy presence, making it a favored addition to garden designs that aim to create visual interest through contrast and vibrant coloration.
About this plant
Monkshood, Wolfsbane, Aconite, Helmet Flower, Devil's Helmet
Aconitum × cammarum 'Bicolor'.
The Monkshood plant, known as Aconitum × cammarum 'Bicolor', is highly toxic to humans. All parts of the plant contain poisonous alkaloids, with the roots and foliage being particularly dangerous. Ingesting any part of Monkshood can lead to severe poisoning. Symptoms may include gastrointestinal upset such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, along with a burning sensation in the mouth. It can also cause neurological symptoms like numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness. Severe toxicity might lead to heart rhythm disturbances, respiratory difficulties, and potentially death due to cardiorespiratory collapse. It is critical to avoid ingesting any part of the Monkshood plant and to seek immediate medical attention if exposure occurs.
The Monkshood plant, also known as Aconitum × cammarum 'Bicolor', presents a high level of toxicity to pets. All parts of this plant contain dangerous alkaloids, making ingestion highly risky for animals. If a pet consumes any part of the Monkshood plant, symptoms of toxicity can include vomiting, diarrhea, and drooling, indicating gastrointestinal upset. It may also lead to more serious effects, such as heart rhythm abnormalities, severe weakness, paralysis, and can cause seizures or collapse. In some cases, ingesting Monkshood can be fatal for pets. It is vital to prevent pets from accessing any part of this plant and to consult a veterinarian immediately if poisoning is suspected.
Color of leaves
3 feet (0.91 meters)
2 feet (0.61 meters)
- General Benefits
- Aesthetic Appeal: The Aconitum × cammarum 'Bicolor', commonly known as Monkshood, offers striking two-toned flowers that can enhance the visual interest of a garden.
- Pollinator Attraction: Monkshood is known to attract bees and butterflies, supporting local ecosystems and pollination processes.
- Seasonal Interest: This plant blooms in the late summer to early fall, providing color and interest in the garden during a time when many other plants are starting to decline.
- Vertical Accent: Due to its tall and erect growth habit, Monkshood can add a vertical dimension to garden beds and borders.
- Shade Tolerance: Monkshood can thrive in partially shaded conditions, making it a versatile addition to a variety of garden settings where sunlight is limited.
- Deer and Rabbit Resistance: The plant is less palatable to deer and rabbits, which reduces the risk of damage from grazing.
- Companion Planting: Monkshood can be effectively paired with other late-season bloomers or foliage plants to create dynamic plant combinations.
- Cold Hardy: Monkshood is capable of enduring cold temperatures, making it suitable for gardens in cooler climates.
- Medical Properties
This plant is not used for medical purposes.
- Air-purifying Qualities
This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.
- Other Uses
- Aconitum, commonly known as Monkshood, has traditional use as an arrow poison for hunting in some parts of the world.
- Extracts from Monkshood have historically been used for poisoning water supplies during warfare.
- Monkshood's toxicity has made it a traditional component in witches' flying ointments, reputedly used in shamanic rituals.
- In folklore, Monkshood was considered a protection against werewolves and vampires and was used in rituals.
- The plant has been used as a component in some gardening pest control mixtures due to its toxic properties.
- The vibrant flowers of Monkshood have been used in floral arrangements, but with extreme caution due to their poison.
- In some cultures, Monkshood is planted around stables to keep pests away from livestock (with caution to prevent accidental ingestion).
- The symbolic association of Monkshood with deception and danger has made it an ingredient in some ritualistic practices that focus on the darker aspects of the psyche.
- In small, controlled doses, the plant was historically used for coldness and numbness in extremities, often in traditional Chinese medicine practices.
- The intense blue coloring of Monkshood flowers has been used in fabric dyeing processes after proper chemical treatment to neutralize toxicity.
- Feng Shui
The Monkshood is not used in Feng Shui practice.
- Zodiac Sign Compitability
The Monkshood is not used in astrology practice.
- Plant Symbolism
- Caution - Aconitum, commonly known as Monkshood, has historically been associated with caution due to its highly toxic nature.
- Misfortune - Monkshood is often considered a symbol of bad luck or misfortune, again owing to its poisonous attributes.
- Protection - In some traditions, Monkshood is thought to ward off evil spirits or protect against witchcraft.
- Deceit - Due to its beautiful flowers that hide the danger within, Monkshood sometimes represents deceit or hidden danger.
The Monkshood 'Bicolor' should be watered deeply but infrequently, aiming to keep the soil consistently moist without becoming waterlogged. Generally, watering once a week with about one to one and a half gallons of water should suffice, but this can vary based on climate and soil conditions. During hot or dry spells, the frequency may need to increase to twice a week, while in cooler, wetter periods, it may need to decrease. Ensure that the water penetrates the soil to reach the roots and avoid overhead watering which can promote leaf diseases.
Monkshood 'Bicolor' thrives best in partial shade, especially in areas with cooler summer climates. It should be planted in a spot that receives morning sunlight and afternoon shade, or dappled sunlight throughout the day, to protect it from the harsh afternoon sun which can cause stress to the plant.
Monkshood 'Bicolor' is hardy and can withstand a temperature range from 50°F to 70°F, which is ideal for its growth. It can survive minimum temperatures down to 20°F and maximum temperatures up to 85°F, but prolonged exposure to extremes beyond this range can be detrimental to the plant's health.
Monkshood 'Bicolor' should be pruned to remove spent flower spikes after blooming to encourage a second flush of flowers and to maintain plant vigor. Deadheading will prevent the plant from using energy to produce seeds and may extend the blooming period. Additionally, removing any damaged or diseased foliage as it appears will keep the plant healthy. The best time for a major pruning is late winter or early spring, just before new growth begins.
Monkshood (Aconitum × cammarum 'Bicolor') thrives in moist, well-draining soil rich in organic matter. A mixture of loam, peat moss, and perlite could provide the ideal balance of drainage and moisture retention. It prefers a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH, around 6.0 to 7.0. Amend the soil with compost to enhance fertility and structure.
Monkshood (Aconitum × cammarum 'Bicolor') does not require frequent repotting and can often be left undisturbed for several years. It's best to repot only when the plant has outgrown its current container or the soil has become depleted, which is typically every 2-3 years.
- Humidity & Misting
Monkshood (Aconitum × cammarum 'Bicolor') is adaptable to a range of humidity levels and does not require high humidity to thrive. Average room humidity is generally sufficient for this plant.
- Suitable locations
Place Monkshood in bright, indirect light and well-draining soil.
Plant Monkshood in partial shade and fertile, moist soil.
- Life cycle
Aconitum × cammarum 'Bicolor', commonly known as Monkshood, begins its life cycle as a seed that germinates in spring when soil temperatures warm up. Seedlings establish a rosette of leaves at the soil surface, developing deep, fleshy roots that will become perennial. In its first year, the plant focuses on vegetative growth, producing a basal clump of foliage but typically does not flower until the following year. During the second year and subsequent years, Monkshood blooms in late summer to early fall, producing tall spikes of hooded, bicolored flowers that attract pollinators such as bees. After pollination, seeds form and are dispersed near the parent plant or by wind, allowing the cycle to begin anew. In the winter, the above-ground part of the plant dies back, but the plant survives the cold season as a rootstock, ready to regrow in spring.
The most popular method of propagation for Aconitum × cammarum 'Bicolor', commonly known as Bi-color Monkshood, is by division. This is typically done in early spring or fall when the plant is not in active growth. To propagate by division, dig up the entire plant, ensuring that you have a good portion of the roots. Using a sharp spade or knife, divide the plant into several sections, each with a portion of the root system and several shoots. Replant the divisions promptly at the same soil level they were originally growing at, spacing them about 18 to 24 inches (approximately 45 to 60 centimeters) apart to allow for growth. Water the new divisions well to help establish them. This method promotes quicker establishment than seed propagation and helps maintain the varietal characteristics of the 'Bicolor' cultivar.