LARKSPUR AND MONKSHOOD (DELPHINIUM AND ACONITUM)
Larkspurs are popular garden ornamentals with distinctive, blue flowers. They are highly toxic, but only if the plants or seeds are eaten.
Monkshood, another buttercup relative, is often confused with delphinium.
Both contain dangerous levels of potent alkaloids, and the gathering of either for food or medicinal use is very dangerous.
Sap, flowers, seeds, and leaves of all members, with the greatest concentration of the toxin occurring in vigorous growth shoots. Dried plant material is usually harmless.
Buttercups and clematis: Glycoside, a severe skin irritant.
Monkshood, delphinium, marsh marigold, baneberry, and larkspur: Highly toxic alkaloids.
TYPICAL POISONING SCENARIO
Contact with and/or consumption of leaves or flowers by livestock or by children who are attracted by the often-showy flowers. In the case of buttercups and clematis, the strong, acrid taste deters further consumption, so fatalities are rare. The poisons in monkshood, delphinium, marsh marigold, baneberry, and larkspur, however, are very much more potent, so ingestion of a small quantity is dangerous.
Another possible cause of poisoning by this group of plants is the abuse of herbal medicines prepared from them. These medicines are almost never taken internally and even when used externally can cause skin irritation.
Buttercups and Clematis typically cause irritation and blistering of the skin if handled, and- if swallowed- intense burning of the mouth and digestive tract, followed by nausea and convulsions. Luckily, the stuff tastes so bad that victims rarely get to this state, but gardeners should be sure to wear gloves before weeding the buttercups or planting out clematis!
The Alkaloid In Monkshood, Delphiniums, Baneberry And Larkspur causes burning of the mouth and throat, confusion, dizziness, headaches and vomiting. In severe poisoning, breathing difficulty, then paralysis, are followed by convulsions and Death from asphyxiation and circulatory failure. However, most victims do recover within 24 hours.
LARKSPUR AND MONKSHOOD POISON INFORMATION
Alkaloids are nitrogen-bearing alkaline chemicals that originate in plants. They are derived from amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, which especially affect the nervous system. At least 40% of all plant families include plants that contain these compounds.
Many plants have different alkaloids present, each with a specific activity. Some alkaloids are useful medicines; others are harmful, even fatal. Most are bitter tasting. The liver, with the assistance of enzymes, processes the alkaloids that enter the body, rendering some harmless there, while making others more toxic.
One common alkaloid, which many of us seek daily, is caffeine.