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Gardening in the Rainy Zone.
WOLF'S BANE, YELLOW ACONITE, YELLOW MONKSHOOD
syn: A. lycoctonum ssp. vulparia, A. lycoctonum ssp neapolitanum, A. orientale
Pronounced: a-kon-EYE-tum vul-PAH-ree-ah
Asia and Europe.
Sunset zones: A1-A3, 1-9, 14-21.
USDA zones: 5-8.
Heat zones: 8-5.
Height: 36 inches (90 cm).
Width: 18 inches (45 cm).
Late spring to early summer.
Racemes of ivory flowers.
Green leaves, with 3 to 7 deep lobes.
Full sun or partial shade.
Humus rich, moist, well-drained soil.
Side dress with compost or manure. Fertilize monthly, spring through early summer, with a complete organic fertilizer.
Rainy Side Notes
Aconitum vulparia makes a good cut flower, is deer and rabbit resistant and looks great planted in mass. What more could a gardener wish for in a perennial?
Unfortunately it has a dark side. In the monkshood genus, Aconitums, all species and cultivars are extremely poisonous. This is not a good choice for a garden where children are present. Although it is rare that humans suffer from an accidental poisoning, pets and livestock are frequently poisoned after digesting the plant.
Aconitums toxic properties are well known throughout the ages, as far back as ancient times in Asia and Europe. In the 1600s, John Gerard thought the yellow-flowering aconites were a good counter measure to the highly poisonous blue-flowering ones in the same genus. Ingesting the yellow-flowering plants would not only neutralize the poisons but protect people from poisonous animal venom as well. He also thought the same plants helped heal victims of the plague; however, anyone that used the plant as a counter measure suffered deadly consequences. In the case of the plague, the poison would kill the patient quickly, saving them from the agony of the last few days of suffering before the plague took their lives. Either way was not a good death.
In her book, "Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities" Amy Stewart writes, "In Greek mythology deadly aconite sprang from the spit of the three-headed hound Cerberus as Hercules dragged it out of Hades." She also reports that its common name—wolf's bane—may well come from ancient Greek hunters' practice of using the plant as poison on their arrows when hunting wolves.
This is a beautiful perennial worth growing as long as you handle it carefully, preferably using gloves. Even brushing against it with bare skin can cause tingling and numbness. Cases of poisoning from people who mistakenly thought the roots were from a horseradish plant and other instances where the leaves were thought to be from the herb, parsley.
Perennials indexed by botanical names. Click on corresponding letter below.