Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Southern Blue Monkshood - Aconitum uncinatum   L.
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Section 6 » Order Ranunculales » Family Ranunculaceae
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AuthorL.
DistributionEssentially throughout the mountains; scattered over nearly all of the Piedmont, though with many holes; not known from the Coastal Plain.

This is a Mid-Atlantic species, ranging north only to southwestern PA, and south to northern GA and northern AL. It is scarce west of central TN.
AbundanceFairly common in the mountains, at least locally. Mostly uncommon across the Piedmont, though more numerous -- but still infrequent at best -- in the northeastern and far northern counties. Though there are records from perhaps just half of the Piedmont counties, it might well occur in nearly all of them.
HabitatThis is a species of rich hardwood forests, usually near seepage or other damp spots, such as along stream banks. It can occur in bottomland forests, but it mostly is found on forested slopes, especially lower slopes. It is best found in Rich Cove Forests in the mountains and Basic Mesic Forests in the Piedmont.
PhenologyA late-blooming species, generally not until August in the mountains, and late August or September in the Piedmont, and rarely into October. Fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a slender herbaceous species, but its 5 foot-long stem is weak, and thus the species generally leans on other vegetation or lies on the ground. It has alternate leaves that are somewhat large, each being strongly divided into 3 or occasionally 5 narrow lobes, with serrated margins, and about 4 inches wide and long. Most biologists can identify the species by its leaning or trailing habit and quite narrow 3-lobed (to rarely 5-lobed) leaves. When in bloom, not until very late summer, it cannot be confused. The few inflorescences are slender, mostly racemes, from the end of the stem and a few upper leaf axils; there are normally about 5-10 flowers scattered along this stalk, each violet-blue or lavender-blue, 1 inch long or somewhat longer, with a helmet shape or broad hood shape. The colored portions of the flowers are actually the 5 sepals, with the 2 petals hidden under the helmet. Needless to say, a written description of this unusual flower does not convey its odd look, and thus photos are worth 1,000 words! As it blooms so late in the season, most encounters with it will be in late spring or summer, when not in bud or flower. Thus, it is important to be able to identify the plants vegetatively.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Appalachian Blue Monkshood, Eastern Blue Monkshood. NatureServe uses just "Blue Monkshood", an appropriate name for general usage in NC, but there are a handful of other blue-flowered Aconitum species in the US, and thus quite a few websites add the Southern modifier name.
State RankS3S4 [S4]
Global RankG4
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