Monkshood / Spring / Summer / Autumn / Toxic
Monkshood is an absolute delight to see through spring and it’s worth learning from a foraging perspective, not to enjoy in dinner but to be completely careful not to pick it for food when out foraging for other plants and species. It’s is known for being deadly toxic!
Other Common Names
Dogs Bane, Wolfsbane, Venus’ chariot, Old Wives Hood
Kingdom – Plantae
Order – Ranunculales
Family – Ranunculaceae
Genus – A. napellus
All parts of this plant are considered deadly poisonous and you need to take care even with handling it. The whole plant contains a toxin called aconitine which is a nerve and heart poison and can be fatal. Poisonings commonly happen in Asia due to it being used medicinally. Poisoning can also occur if handling the plant as aconitine is easily absorbed through the skin. It is rare but this can also be deadly.
Range and Distribution
Commonly grown in gardens, this plant is also found growing in the wild and is native to western and central Europe.
Gardens, damp woodlands, shaded banks and by streams.
Physical Characteristics of Monkshood
A tall, hairless herbaceous perennial plant growing up to 1m tall and producing a beautiful purple flower spike.
Leaves grow 5-10cm in diameter and are palmately divided into 5-7 deeply lobed segments with further lobes protruding from these.
Blue to dark purple flowers compromising of 2-5 petals with one petal becoming a broad hood shape. The flowers form a spike cluster.
In ancient times it’s known that arrows were dipped in the sap from Monkshood to be used as a poison for hunting and in battle. Reports show that this poison has been used for thousands of years. At the end of the Roman rule in Europe it was illegal to grow and if caught you would have been sentenced to death.
Learn more about the toxin contained in Monkshood here