Delphinium L.
(incl. Consolida Gray)

As currently understood (see below) Delphinium counts about 350 species that are widely distributed. A single species, Delphinium consolida L., is considered native (i.e. archaeophyte) in Belgium (Lambinon & Verloove 2012). The generic boundaries of Delphinium have always been obscure and especially the delimitation of Consolida is critical. Both genera were distinguished by their number of fruits (carpels or follicles). These are nearly always solitary in Consolida while several (usually 3-5) in Delphinium. In the past decades both genera were accepted by most authors. However, recent molecular studies by Jabbour & Renner (2011a and 2011b, 2012) have demonstrated that Consolida is in fact embedded in Delphinium. The latter is monophyletic after the segregation of Staphisagria J. Hill (Jabbour & Renner 2010); its three species have some traits that are closer to Aconitum L. than they are to the remainder of Delphinium.

Many species of Delphinium are very popular garden ornamentals. Useful recent accounts of the genus in cultivation in Europe are presented by Cullen & Maxwell (1989) and Jäger & al. (2008). Additional information on the genus is available at “The Delphinium Society” at:

The genus Delphinium is probably insufficiently known in Belgium. Especially the annual species with a single follicle (‘Consolida’) should be critically assessed. Many of the species are much alike and some might hide other, unrecognized species. In North America, for instance, the Mediterranean species Delphinium pubescens DC. (syn.: Consolida pubescens (DC.) Soó) and D. tenuissimum Sibth. & Sm. (syn.: C. tenuissima (Sibth. & Sm.) Soó) are regular introductions (Warnock 1997) while in the Netherlands D. brevicornis Vis (syn.: C. brevicornis (Vis.) Soó) has been recorded (Henrard 1918). The species accepted in this account have also frequently been intermixed in Belgian herbaria although their identification is, in fact, straightforward. The archaeophyte Delphinium consolida used to occur as a weed in agricultural fields. However, as such it now has become very rare or even extinct. It is now still regularly seen as an (ephemeral) introduction in port areas, mainly as a grain alien. Such non-native plants often slightly differ from native ones in having a very lax inflorescence with widely diverging branches. They are referable to subsp. paniculatum (Host) N. Busch (syn.: Consolida regalis subsp. paniculata (Host) Soó) from southeastern Europe and Turkey. The distinction between this subspecies and subsp. regalis is often weak and subspecies rank seems exaggerated.

1 Follicle (fruit) several (3-5). Stout rhizomatous perennial === Delphinium elatum
Follicle solitary. Annual === 2

2 Ovary and follicle glabrous (rarely very sparsely hairy). Lower bracts entire (native) === D. consolida
Ovary and follicles densely hairy. Lower bracts dissected === 3

3 Upper bracteoles overtopping base of flower. Stem hairs all patent. Spur less than 12 mm long. Flowers reddish violet === D. orientale
All bracteoles very short, not reaching base of flower. At least hairs in inflorescence curved upwards. Spur more than 12 mm long. Flowers bluish violet, pink or white === D. ajacis


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Xiang K-L., Aytaç Z., Liu Y., Espinosa F., Jabbour F., Byng, J.W., Zhang C-F., Erst A.S. & Wang W. (2017) Recircumscription of Delphinium subg. Delphinium (Ranunculaceae) and implications for its biogeography. Taxon 66(3): 554-566. [available online at:

Taxonomic name: 
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith