The Sonoran Desert Florilegium

plants of the florilegium

Delpinium scaposum
Tall mountain larkspur

FAMILY:  Ranunculaceae — Buttercup family

ETYMOLOGY:  The name of the genus Delphinium is based on the Greek word for larkspur, or delphinion, the root of which is delphinos, or dolphin, a reference to the shape of the flowers.

The specific epithet scaposum is a Latin term for something with a conspicuous scape, a leafless stem that grows directly from a root.

The common name Larkspur is a reference to the flower's spur, the long, hollow extension of the sepal that resembles the sharp claw of a lark's foot.

DESCRIPTION:  The royal blue to bluish-purple flowers of the larkspur are quite distinctive with their long backward-projecting spurs located behind the upper petals. The spur contains nectar that bumblebees reach by entering the flower from the front, working their way through stamens with their pollen-laden anthers and styles to the mouth of the spur. Along the way, the bumblebees pick up pollen on their fuzzy bodies that will be transferred to other plants as they go about nectar hunting.

The dark green leaves growing only at the base of the stem are divided into a palm shape with lobes rounded at the tips. Toxic alkaloids in the larkspur protect it from hungry animals. Hopi Indians use the ground flowers in religious ceremonies, as the blue flower associated with the southwest direction, and as an emetic in the Powanu ceremony. A spring perennial, the larkspur is usually found in sandy or gravelly soil on hillsides and in canyons and washes at elevations below 5,000'.