These lolling, hooded flowers belong to the same family as the beloved ranunculus, and are most often found growing in the soil of mountain meadows. For FOTW, we try to present you with a varied look at the weird as well as wonderful world of flowers, and there’s not really any getting around the chief characteristic of pretty much all aconitum: it’s poisonous as hell. Its toxins can kill in large doses, causing paralysis of the heart after putting its victims through a whole host of other grim symptoms first. Even brushing bare skin against its leaves can have serious, serious consequences.
That said, its ancient use as venom means the flower has some pretty good literary ties, popping up in everything from Shakespeare’s Henry IV to, erm, an episode of Midsomer Murders. ‘Wolf’s Bane’ is perhaps the most notorious type of aconitum, its name originating in Ovid’s Metamorphosis - apparently growing from the saliva that dripped from the mouth of Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of hell (etymology fans - note that aconite poisoning shares a number of symptoms with rabies…). Anyway, since then Wolf’s Bane has become the go-to flower for all things horror-related: Bela Lugosi’s Dracula was warded off by sprigs of the stuff, it triggered transformations in a whole host of werewolf movies and even Harry Potter gets a lecture on it from his deliciously dry antagonist, Severus Snape.
To conclude, we suggest staying away from aconitum unless you come across them in the pages of James Joyce’s Ulysses or whilst playing the videogame The Witcher 3. What you can do is appreciate the undoubted allure of their beautiful hooded flowers right here on Floom at least.