Delphinium tricorne

A spring ephemeral with blue star-shaped flowers

Delphinium tricorne dwarf larkspur

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA

This beautiful deep violet native herbaceous perennial is a beautiful sight on the woodland floor. The flowers are often such a dark purple that they blend in with the background of soil, rocks and leaf litter. The dwarf larkspur is actually a member of the buttercup family as demonstrated by the wide and deeply lobed basal leaves typical of buttercups. The genus name comes from the Greek word for 'dolphin' and refers to the shape of the buds that, with imagination, look a bit like dolphins. The blue to deep violet flowers are borne on top of a branchless, fleshy stem. A white variety also exists. The flower stalk is usually lightly hairy and may have a few alternate leaves.

The dwarf larkspur is a spring ephemeral plant that blooms in the northeastern United States before the leaves are on the trees, and then quickly dies back. It can grow 8-30 inches high and has a flower spike (raceme) 6-8 inches long with 6-24 flowers. The complex star-shaped flowers have 5 petals and 4 petal-like sepals and are about ¾ to 1 inch in diameter. Two of the petals are very small and surround the opening that leads to the nectar spur. A variety of long-tongued bees, hummingbirds and butterflies as well as the sphinx moth will pollinate this species. The top petal forms a long spur that resembles a witch's peaked hat. The name larkspur comes from the three horn-like fruit pods that develop later in the season.

Most of the leaves form a loose cluster at the base of the flower stalk. These can be up to 4 inches long and wide. There are a few alternate stem leaves. The larkspur prefers rocky or loamy soil and partial shade. It grows in an area from Pennsylvania and northern Georgia west to Oklahoma and Minnesota. It does not apparently grow as a native plant in New York State or New England. Populations in the Southeast are spotty. Historically the dwarf larkspur has been found mostly in southwestern Pennsylvania, though some have been seen as far north as Venango county. The plant contains toxic alkaloids and should never be eaten. This toxicity is true of most members of the buttercup family.

Contributed by: Mark Welchley

Grows in rich moist woods, thickets, river bluffs and calcareous slopes.

Mostly found in the southwest and southcentral parts of the state.

Range:  Pennsylvania and northern Georgia west to Oklahoma and Minnesota

Wetland code: Not classified

Flowers late April through June.

S-rank:  S3 (Vulnerable)
G-rank:  G5 (Secure)

Delphinium tricorne dwarf larkspur

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA
Delphinium tricorne gallery
Plant Life-Form
perennial forb
Common Names
dwarf larkspur spring larkspur