Aconitum carmichaeli

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Aconitum carmichaeli Debeaux


Life form: perennial
Usage: ornamental plant

Exposure: half shade   3

Moisture: moist

Soil: loam - Soil: sandy loam - Soil: gritty loam - Soil: clay - Soil: sandy clay - Soil: loamy clay

Arrangement: alternate
Leaves: decidious

Shape: palmately lobed

Division: digitate

Shape: campanulate
Fruit: follicle

82C / 7b4c9a 

Inflorescence: raceme

Petals: single
Habit: nodding

Growth form: stemless



Aconitum carmichaeli, commonly known as Aconite, is a perennial with very attractive blue purple flowers and well suited for semi-shady and wet sites.


Aconitum carmichaeli was described in 1879 by Jean Odon Debeaux. The name is considered as validly published.


Aconitum carmichaeli is a species in the genus Aconitum which contains approximately 383 to 521 species and belongs to the family of the Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family). The type species of the genus is Aconitum napellus.


Branched inflorescence, September
Fruits, beginning of November
With grasses, October
Semi-shady site near water, October


The perennials grow to a height of approximately 1,5 to 2 meters and form loose clumps.

Root System

The shoots grow from bulbous taproots with rather coarse roots.


Aconitum carmichaeli is a decidious plant.The large leathery leaves are arranged opposite one another. They are three to five-palmate and habe a glossy, dark green surface.

Flowers and Fruit

The flowers are purple to bluish-purple and slightly pilose. They are large and have the typical helmet-shape of aconites. The flowers are arranged in long axillary racemes with many racemes on the sides and appear from August/September to November/December.

The black fruits are follicles.


A. carmichaelii is native to Central China. Between 1880 and 1900 different varieties were established, differing greatly in flowering time and height. In 1951 the nursery Arends cultivated the cultivar 'Arendsii' which grows to a height of 120 centimeters.


Aconitum carmichaeli can withstand temperatures down to -40º C (USDA zone 3). It grows best in loamy soil, sandy or pebbly, loamy soil, clay soil, sandy or loamy clay soil that is moist. The substrate should have a pH between 6,5 and 7,5. It prefers a semi-shady site, although it will also grow in full shade and even sun, provided the soil is moist enough. The roots should always be in the shade.

Classification after Prof. Dr. Sieber

  • woods (soil usually rich in organic material)


The recommended planting distance is 40 centimetres, the perennials are best planted in groups of 3 to 5. The plants are valuable garden perennials since they add long-lasting colour to shady sites. They can, for example, be used to top off plantings with ferns, Anemone, lilies, Astilbe or small conifers. They are best planted solitary or in small groups.

Especially selected clones are used for cut flowers. Furthermore suited as bee pasture.


It is important to keep a good nitrate level in the soil, especially when the perennials are planted close to trees or shrubs. This can be achieved by regularly giving compost or organic fertilizer.

The plants should be cut back to about six inches above the ground after the leaves have withered.

Varieties and Cultivars


All parts of Aconitum carmichaeli are extremely poisonous. The contact poison, especially in the roots, is lethal already in very small doses. Always wear gloves!

Aeskulap  Please read the health issues note

Pests and Diseases

On sites that are too dry, warm or sunny an infestation with Aphis fabae may occur which will damage the flower buds. Powdery mildew my also be a problem. Dammed-up water lead to wilting which may cause total loss of the plants. The best course of action in both cases: choose a different site.


  • Walter Erhardt, Erich Götz, Nils Bödeker, Siegmund Seybold: Der große Zander. Eugen Ulmer KG, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-8001-5406-7. (Ger.)
  • Christoper Brickell (Editor-in-chief): RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. Third edition. Dorling Kindersley, London 2003, ISBN 0-7513-3738-2.

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