Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Dwarf Larkspur - Delphinium tricorne   Michaux
Members of Ranunculaceae:
Members of Delphinium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Ranunculales » Family Ranunculaceae
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DistributionA clean bimodal distribution in the state. Nearly throughout the Mountains; widely scattered in the central and eastern Piedmont and along the upper Roanoke River in the northern Coastal Plain. Seemingly absent from the western 40-50% of the Piedmont -- no records between Rockingham, Randolph, and Mecklenburg counties and the Mountain counties.

This species is primarily Midwestern, centered in the Ohio and Tennessee river valleys and the Central Plains. It ranges eastward to central PA, central NC, and central AL.
AbundanceInfrequent to locally fairly common in the Mountains. Rare to locally uncommon in a narrow north-south band through the east-central Piedmont (Rockingham and Caswell counties south to Mecklenburg and Richmond counties). Locally fairly common in a short stretch of the upper Roanoke River, just below the Fall Line, in Halifax and Northampton counties.
HabitatThis is a species of circumneutral soil, as is D. exaltatum; however, this species grows on rich, moist soils in full shade, usually in Rich Cove Forest natural community in the Mountains, and Basic Mesic Forest in the central and lower Piedmont. Along the Roanoke River, it also grows in Basic Mesic Forests, in rich alluvium.
PhenologyUnlike D. exultatum, which has a summer blooming season, this one is a spring bloomer, from March into May, and fruiting shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a beautiful spring wildflower, both for its odd-looking flowers and for the rich violet flowers, a color not often seen in rich forested habitats. It is a medium-sized plant, growing to 1-2 feet tall. It has several basal leaves, each on stalks up to 6 inches long, with the blade being highly dissected into 3-7 narrow segments, each blade being 3-4 inches across. These leaves looks fairly similar to those of D. exaltatum and Aconitum uncinatum and A. reclinatum; and thus in parts of the range you may need to see the flowers to be certain of the identification. The inflorescence, usually just one per plant, is on a separate stalk to about 2 feet tall, having 5-15 scattered but rich violet (to often just white) flowers. Each flower is 1-1.5 inches long, with a long and narrow spur in back and 4-5 spreading "petals" in front; see photos online for better details. This species often grows in spectacular stands of dozens to at times over 100 plants on a given slope, and if in full bloom, the violet colors make a vivid impression on the observer! Some populations, however, have all or mostly all flowers off-white instead of violet. Although some references say the flowers are "blue", maybe the authors have never seen the species in life, the species really has blue flowers in other states within the range, or their concept of "blue" versus "violet" is different from most other people's concept!
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Spring Larkspur
State RankS3
Global RankG5
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US Status
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B.A. SorrieMesic lower slope, Morrow Mountain SP, 2 May 2008. StanlyPhoto_natural
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