Larkspur (Consolida) is a relative of the delphinium family, and they are often mistaken for each other. Larkspur blooms on slender stems, 18 to 36 inches tall, with its spikes holding tightly packed blossoms---though fewer blossoms than delphinium has---in white, pink, red and blue. Larkspur is a good choice for gardeners who want to repel pests such as deer, but all parts of larkspur are poisonous if ingested and can be especially harmful to young children.
Larkspur and delphinium look similar, but they are actually different plant species. True larkspur is Consolida. Larkspur, its common name, came about because its flowers resemble a lark's spur or claw. According to the University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension, larkspurs have "daintier flower spikes with fewer florets and fine, more deeply cut leaves than do delphiniums."
Native American Lore
A Native American story credits the larkspur to a celestial figure who "tore open the evening sky, scooped up and twisted a portion of it and created a spike," according to FlowerInfo.org. "When she plunged it down to earth so she could climb down, small blue flecks of sky adhered to it. Eventually the sun dried out the stalk and scattered small pieces along the planet, thus creating the delicate larkspur flower," FlowerInfo.org says.
Folklore and Magic
According to FlowerInfo.org, larkspur has been used for folk remedies and magic. Witches used the flower for various spells, while, in turn, people used it to protect themselves and their animals against witches and sorcerers. In England, for example, dried and fresh larkspur was used in protection spells, to cure ailments and as integral ingredients in marking the "longest" day of the year, the summer solstice.
According to the University of Dayton's Marian Library, in the Middle Ages, May Day, which celebrates new life, became associated with the Virgin Mary. As one of the flower symbols denoting the Virgin Mary's sorrows, larkspur represents Mary's tears. The Victorians used flowers to communicate messages that may otherwise have had to have been left unsaid under the era's rigid social rules. In flower language, pink larkspur symbolizes fickleness, white larkspur means joyful or happy-go-lucky and purple larkspur means the recipient is sweet.
Larkspur is grown by seed, thrives in any well-drained soil and prefers sun or light shade. Larkspur is a plant that reseeds itself, so you may get new plants each season. To encourage reseeding, keep some flowers on the stems after they've bloomed, so they form seed heads. The seeds will reach the ground via gravity, wind, rain or birds. After growing the first stand of larkspur, let it reseed fully to guarantee a good number of plants the next season.
- Photo Credit Butterfly on Larkspur image by Boster from Fotolia.com
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