Delphinium carolinianum Walter
Prairie Larkspur, Carolina Larkspur, Blue Larkspur
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)
USDA Symbol: deca3
This is a slender, upright perennial, with unbranched stems usually from 1-3 ft. tall. White to pale blue, spurred flowers in a narrow cluster on a finely downy stalk. Pale blue to white, spurred flowers appear in a narrow, terminal spike. Leaves are divided and lobed into narrow segments. Basal leaves often form a winter rosette which withers before the flowers open. The Spanish name is Espuela del caballero from its resemblance to a horseman's spur.
When in flower, this midwestern species can carpet acres of prairie before the grasses take over. Plains Larkspur was once considered to be a separate species, D. virescens, but studies of variation in larkspurs have now classified it as a subspecies of the widespread Carolina Larkspur, D. carolinianum ssp. virescens. The species, with three subspecies, ranges from the eastern edge of the West to the southeastern United States. Some phases may be blue. Larkspurs intergrade among species, and flower color varies from white to pale or dark blue in some species, making them difficult to classify and identify. Most blue-flowered species have white-flowered variants, and a few are consistently white or very pale blue. The geographic range of the white-flowered Wooton’s Larkspur (D. wootonii) overlaps with that of Plains Larkspur on the plains of eastern Colorado and southwestern Nebraska, but most of its range is to the south and west, to southeastern Arizona and western Texas. Wooton’s Larkspur usually has leaves mostly at the base and reflexed sepals, whereas Plains Larkspur has leafy stems and spreading sepals. Also white-flowered are Alkali Larkspur (D. gypsophilum), found in the San Joaquin Valley and the southern Coast Ranges of California; Peacock Larkspur, a hybrid between D. menziesii subsp. pallidum and Cow Poison (D. trolliifolium), with brightly glandular-hairy petals, found in western Oregon; and Pale Larkspur (D. nuttallii ssp. ochroleucum), without glandular petals, found in the vicinity of Portland, Oregon.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Fruit Type: Follicle
Size Notes: Up to about 5 feet tall, often shorter.
Flower: Flowers in 6 inch spikes
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Blue , Violet
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul
DistributionUSA: AL , AR , CO , FL , GA , IA , IL , KS , KY , LA , MN , MO , MS , ND , NE , OK , SC , SD , TN , TX , WI
Native Distribution: C. TX to FL, n. to IA, IL & TN
Native Habitat: Dry, open woods; sandy hills; brushlands
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Dry, sandy soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Acid-based, Calcareous
Conditions Comments: Looks best in clusters. Dormant in summer. Adapts to a variety of soils.
BenefitUse Ornamental: Perennial garden, Wildflower meadow
Use Medicinal: Seeds ground and soaked in alcohol to kill head lice.
Warning: Plants of the genus Delphinium contain toxins, and no parts of them should ever be eaten. They can be fatally poisonous to both humans and animals. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a person’s age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plant’s different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
PropagationPropagation Material: Seeds
Description: Propagate by seed sown in early fall or spring.
Seed Collection: Seeds are formed dry in a pod, which call for close observation in order to collect seeds before they are thrown out.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Native plants for shady small spaces in Houston, TX
June 18, 2006
What are the best plants and flowers to plant in small spaces in an urban area in Houston, Texas? I have several flower beds that are 3 foot wide and 10-12 foot long that get half day sun. The area...
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From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Fredericksburg Nature Center - Fredericksburg, TX
Brackenridge Field Laboratory - Austin, TX
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
Herbarium Specimen(s)NPSOT 0008 Collected April 27 1990 in Bexar County by Judith C. Berry
BibliographyBibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
Bibref 355 - Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (1991) Miller, G. O.
Bibref 765 - McMillen's Texas Gardening: Wildflowers (1998) Howard, D.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 248 - Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide (1984) Loughmiller, C. & L. Loughmiller
Bibref 1294 - The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.
Bibref 328 - Wildflowers of Texas (2003) Ajilvsgi, Geyata.
Search More Titles in Bibliography
Web ReferenceWebref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Delphinium carolinianum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Delphinium carolinianum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Delphinium carolinianum
MetadataRecord Modified: 2023-02-06
Research By: TWC Staff