Delphinium L.


Greek delphinion, from delphis—dolphin, referring to the flower shape of the annual bedding plant that is now placed in the genus Consolida

Annual, biennial or perennial herbs with fibrous, woody or tuberous roots. Leaves palmately divided, the main divisions further divided or of narrow segments. Flowers bilaterally symmetrical, in clusters, individually stalked and with 3 bracts at the base. Sepals 5, petal-like, the uppermost with a backward-pointing spur. Petals 4, much smaller than the sepals, generally either paler or much darker, the 2 uppermost with nectar glands that extend into the sepal spur. Stamens many. Carpels 3-5, free. Fruit of 3-5 follicles.

Many are poisonous, especially to cattle, though not a recorded problem in Australia.

Known in SE Australia primarily through a range of garden hybrids and cultivars based primarily on D. elatum: these were first bred in Somerset, England, in 1875 and later developed in Bath in the early 20th century. More recently selections have been introduced from N. America and Holland. Flowers may be doubles or singles and the habit low-growing to tall, often producing stunning blues. They are valuable as border plants in cooler areas. Recent breeding has centred on red-flowered variants using the Californian D. cardinale. The name D. ×cultorum has been used for the range of garden hybrids and cultivars.

Pacific Hybrids were originally bred in California as annuals and developed for their tall spikes as well as the semi-double and double flowers; they are based largely on D. elatum. Selections (sometimes treated as variable cultivar groups) are noted under cultivar descriptions.

Hybrids and cultivars should be propagated by division in spring or autumn or by cuttings taken from the root crown.

Single backward-pointing spur on the uppermost perianth segment.

About 350 species north temperate.

Munz (1967a, 1967c), Edwards (1981).

Source: Spencer, R. (1997). Ranunculaceae. In: Spencer, R.. Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 2. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 1. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.

Cultivars of uncertain origin

Delphinium 'Blue Sensation'

Brilliant blue flowers growing to about 60 cm tall.

Raised in New Zealand

Delphinium 'Blue Springs'

Mixed dwarf selection to 1 m tall with large semi-double blue flowers.

Delphinium 'Connecticut Yankee'

Grows to about 80 cm tall with intense, deep blue flowers.

Raised in America.

Delphinium 'Little Butterfly'

Low growing to 15 cm tall with dark blue flowers.

Pacific Hybrids

These were originally bred in California as annuals and developed for their tall spikes as well as the semi-double and double flowers; they are based largely on d. elatum.

Delphinium 'Black Knight'

Flowers dark violet with black patch.

Delphinium 'Blue Bird'

Flowers blue with a white patch.

Delphinium 'Guinevere'

Flowers lavender with pink tint and a white patch.

Delphinium 'King Arthur'

Flowers violet with a white centre.

kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Ranunculanae
order      Ranunculales
family       Ranunculaceae
Higher taxa
Subordinate taxa
species         Delphinium √óbelladonna Bergmans.
species         Delphinium grandiflorum L.