Larkspur (Consolida ajacis and Consolida ambigua) is an annual member of the buttercup family Ranunculaceae (of which all members, to my knowledge, are toxic). It is native to Asia, Europe, and the Mediterranean region but has naturalized throughout the civilized world due to its popularity as a garden plant.
It grows to 2-4 feet tall with loose spikes of blue, purple, pink or white flowers that appear in the summer but fade in excessive heat.
The flowers are particularly interesting. They have 1 pistil and several stamens, four petals, two of which are fused at the top and 5 sepals. Four of the sepals look like petals and the fifth looks like a spur extending from the back of the flower, thus the common name. The finely cut, fern-like leaves are also very attractive.
There are about 40 species of larkspur and hundreds of cultivars created for and by horticulturists.
Some folk names for larkspur: lark’s heel, lark’s toe, lark’s claw, knight’s spur, staggerweed
Growing Larkspur in the Garden
Larkspur is very easy to grow in a sunny spot with rich, well-drained soil. They are easily started from seed and do not transplant well, so sow them right in your garden as soon as the danger of frost has passed. They enjoy cool weather and will begin to fade in the summer heat. You can deadhead them at this point or let them seed out so they return the following year.
Larkspur is toxic so it will not be bothered by rabbits or deer. It is enjoyed by butterflies and bumblebees, however.
Some Larkspur History and Folklore
The name Consolida is from the Latin “to consolidate”.
Greek mythology- Ajax slew himself after he dishonored himself in a temper when he did not receive the armor of Achilles and larkspur sprang from his blood. It is said that AI can be seen the petals of the larkspur, the Greek cry of mourning.
Larkspur may have had a traditional use among soldiers to help control body lice.
Larkspur is one of the birth flowers for the month of July.
Craft Uses for Larkspur
Larkspur is a lovely cut flower for bouquets.
Magical Uses for Larkspur
Because of its association with Ajax, a hero of the Trojan war, as well as healing wounds on the battlefield and helping to fight lice infestations among the troops, larkspur is a suitable addition to any spell related to the protection, comfort and care of soldiers and other hero types. (police officers, firefighters, aid volunteers, etc.). It is also particularly appropriate for rituals to honor the heroic dead.
According to Cunningham’s Encycolopedia of Magical Herbs, Larkspur helps keep away ghosts, scorpions and other venomous creatures. Plant around your home to keep away dangerous creatures and unfriendly spirits. Or wear larkspur to protect yourself from them.
- Paperback book, nonfiction. 1984.
- Cunningham, Scott (Author)
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Larkspur has been used throughout Europe in various protection spells. Bunches may be hung in the stable to prevent the animals from theft or predation (just keep it out of the animals’ reach as larkspur is toxic).
Either the dried or fresh flowers may be used.
In the language of flowers, larkspur means gaiety, levity, and purity of heart.
Healing Uses for Larkspur
Historically been used to treat hemorrhoids, colic in children and wounds. Internal use is not recommended due to toxicity.
A tincture of the seeds is insecticidal and traditionally used for head lice and body lice.
The leaves and seeds contain the toxin delphinine, which is toxic and has been known to poison grazing livestock. Some people experience contact dermatitis after handling larkspur.