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Delphinium alpestre
(Alpine larkspur)

[taxon report][distribution map][all photos][line drawing]



Family: Ranunculaceae

Scientific Name: Delphinium alpestre Rydberg

Synonyms: None

Vernacular Name: Alpine larkspur

R-E-D Code: 1-1-2

Description: Perennial herb 5-25 cm tall; leaves all on stem, but crowded near base, petioles 1-10 cm long, blades 2-5 cm long and about as wide, palmately divided into 5 main lobes, each lobe further dissected into smaller lobes; inflorescence a raceme of 2-8 flowers; sepals dull blue or dull blue tinged with brown, especially on the back, spreading or forward-pointing, 11-14 mm long, the upper sepal extended basally into a spur 8-12 mm long; lower petal blades cleft, 4-6 mm long. Flowers July to September.

Similar Species: Our other montane larkspur species are usually much taller. Delphinium ramosum is morphologically very similar, but is a taller plant (> 50 cm) and occurs at somewhat lower elevations.


Distribution: New Mexico, Taos County, Sangre de Cristo Mountains; adjacent south-central Colorado.

Habitat: Alpine tundra and open meadows in subalpine coniferous forest; 3,500-3,950 m (11,500-13,000 ft).

Remarks: This is our smallest high-elevation larkspur species. Some botanists believe it to be only a high elevation form of Delphinium ramosum.

Conservation Considerations: The remote and relatively inaccessible habitats of this species provide it with a large degree of protection from land use impacts. Some species of Delphinium are poisonous to cattle, so the genus as a whole is sometimes targeted for poisonous weed control.

Important Literature (*Illustration):

Warnock, M.J. 1997. Delphinium, pp. 196-240 In: Flora of North America Editorial Committee (eds.). Flora of North America, Magnoliophyta: Magnoliidae and Hamamelidae, Vol. 3. Oxford University Press, New York, New York.

*New Mexico Native Plants Protection Advisory Committee. 1984. A handbook of rare and endemic plants of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

Information Compiled By: Robert Sivinski, 1999

Agency Status:
Taxon USFWS State of NM USFS BLM Navajo Nation Natural Heritage NM Global Rank
Delphinium alpestreSoCSoCSen..S3G3


Photo credits in header Peniocereus greggii var. greggii © T. Todsen,
Lepidospartum burgessii © M. Howard, Argemone pleiacantha ssp. pinnatisecta © R. Sivinski
©2005 New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council