AconiteBotanical Name: Aconitum napellus (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Ranunculaciae
Synonyms: Monkshood. Blue Rocket. Friar's Cap. Auld Wife's Huid.
Part Used: The whole plant.
Habitat: Lower mountain slopes of North portion of Eastern Hemisphere. From Himalayas through Europe to Great Britain.
Aconite is now found wild in a few parts of England, mainly in the western counties and also in South Wales, but can hardly be considered truly indigenous. It was very early introduced into England, being mentioned in all the English vocabularies of plants from the tenth century downwards, and in Early English medical recipes.
Description: The plant is a hardy perennial, with a fleshy, spindle-shaped root, palecoloured when young, but subsequently acquiring a dark brown skin. The stem is about 3 feet high, with dark green, glossy leaves, deeply divided in palmate manner and flowers in erect clusters of a dark blue colour. The shape of the flower is specially designed to attract and utilize bee visitors, especially the humble bee. The sepals are purple - purple being specially attractive to bees - and are fancifully shaped, one of them being in the form of a hood. The petals are only represented by the two very curious nectaries within the hood, somewhat in the form of a hammer; the stamens are numerous and lie depressed in a bunch at the mouth of the flower. They are pendulous at first, but rise in succession and place their anthers forward in such a way that a bee visiting the flower for nectar is dusted with the pollen, which he then carries to the next flower he visits and thereby fertilizes the undeveloped fruits, which are in a tuft in the centre of the stamens, each carpel containing a single seed.
In the Anglo-Saxon vocabularies it is called thung, which seems to have been a general name for any very poisonous plant. It was then called Aconite (the English form of its Greek and Latin name), later Wolf's Bane, the direct translation of the Greek Iycotonum, derived from the idea that arrows tipped with the juice, or baits anointed with it, would kill wolves - the species mentioned by Dioscorides seems to have been Aconitum lycotonum. In the Middle Ages it became Monkshood and Helmet-flower, from the curious shape of the upper sepal overtopping the rest of the flower. This was the ordinary name in Shakespeare's days.
The generic name is said to have been derived from