Known for its showy flower clusters, scarlet larkspur is a 3-5 ft., branched or unbranched perennial with finely dissected basal and stem leaves. A loose spire of brilliant red, bilaterally symmetrical flowers atop a tall stem with palmately lobed leaves near base. Long-spurred flowers occur in open clusters up to 2 ft. in length. Their showy sepals are brilliant red while the pea-like flowers are yellow with scarlet tips.
The species name refers to the vibrant red of the flower, like the red of a cardinals robe. Masses on a slope have been likened to a hill on fire. The red flower attracts hummingbirds as the primary pollinators. Red Larkspur (D. nudicaule), also known as Orange Larkspur, is a smaller plant, rarely more than 4 ft (1.2 m) tall, with not quite as brilliant flowers; its sepals are noticeably forward-pointing, much like a half-opened bud of Scarlet Larkspur. This flower shape gave D. nudicaule another common name used long ago, Christmas Horns; it grows from central California to southern Oregon.
Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
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