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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - July 26, 2014

From: Missoula, MT
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Larkspur with pink and white flowers
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hi - I have been photographing larkspurs (mainly D. bicolor) in Montana for years now and I found one that I can't identify. The leaves and flower structure all appear to be D. bicolor, but the flowers are pink with white petals in the center, not purple/blue with white. Is this just a color variation? I haven't found any photos showing this variation in wild larkspurs or any mention of it in my plant guides or websites. Thanks!

ANSWER:

There are five species of native Delphiniums that occur in Montana:

Delphinium ajacis [synonym = Consolida ajacis] (Rocket larkspur), a European native and a cultivated species sold for flower gardens that now occurs over a large portion of North America, including Montana, can be found in a variety of colors—purple, light and dark blue, light and dark pink, and white.  It is possible that you might have found one of these non-natives, but I am inclined to believe that you found a color variant of one of the natives.

Here are descriptions of several of the species above from eFloras.org, Flora of North America online, that might help you determine which native species it was:

D. bicolor, D. depauperatum, D. glaucum, D. nuttallianum,

D. nuttallianum lists the flower colors as:  "Flowers: sepals usually bluish purple, rarely white to pink,..."  All the others list the sepals as blue or bluish purple.  However, with colors of flowers, mutations to the enzymes in the pigment formation pathways can happen that would alter the color of the flowers.  i wouldn't be surprised to occasionally find pink and white blooms on any of the Delphinium species listed above.

 

From the Image Gallery


Flat-head larkspur
Delphinium bicolor

Slim larkspur
Delphinium depauperatum

Sierra larkspur
Delphinium glaucum

Twolobe larkspur
Delphinium nuttallianum

Duncecap larkspur
Delphinium x occidentale

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