Pronunciation: (ak-o-nai-tam)
Family: Monkshood, Wolfbane, Aconite, RANUNCULACEAE

Steeped in medieval mysticism, as their popular names suggest, there really is something sinister about these European perennials — they are poisonous in every part, were used in many potions of bygone days. Mostly they are tall-growing plants (up to 1.5m/5ft) with purple, blue or white helmet-shaped flowers in late summer.

Plant them 40cm/ 16in apart in semi-shaded, rich soil -— or a more sunbathed position in cooler climates. They grow easily from divisions or seed — but the latter may take three years to bloom after spring sowing at a temperature of 16C/59F.

The deeply divided leaves are dark, satiny green, the flowers develop in tall racemes, often branched, and keep opening blooms in violet blue; Aconitum vulparia may be mauve, pinkish or yellow. All Aconites die down in winter, are a waste of space in warmer climates.

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