What is Consolida?

N. Phipps

Consolida is a genus of annual plants commonly referred to as rocket larkspur or annual delphinium. Most annual larkspur species are native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean regions. They’re considered hardy annuals because they are somewhat tolerant of cool weather. Larkspur plants are closely related to perennial delphiniums; however, they are much less showy.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

The blooms of Consolida consist of five sepals — four that resemble petals and one that looks like a spur — hence the common name. Like delphiniums, some varieties produce blue flowers with pink and white types also available. While the lightly scented flowers, which bloom summer through fall, are similar to those of true delphiniums, the overall plant size is smaller. In addition, the foliage is more feathery in nature.

Annual larkspur is easy to grow and quite popular in home gardens, especially beds and borders. These plants thrive in full sun or light shade and well-draining soil. Plants grow wherever the seeds are dropped and can be sown in early spring or even fall. Since Consolida species self-seed readily, they should be planted in an area of the landscape where this will not become a problem. Deadheading spent blooms can help prevent them from setting and dropping seeds.

Other than occasional watering, especially during dry spells, larkspur plants require little maintenance. As they are shorter than true delphiniums, reaching up to about three feet (91 cm) tall, most do not require staking. Consolida plants make great choices for cut flower gardens. They’re also good for attracting pollinators, like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, to the garden.

Care should be taken when growing annual larkspur, however. Young Consolida plants are poisonous, especially the seeds. In addition, both the leaves and flowers can cause upset stomach if ingested. A lethal dose of seeds can cause violent vomiting, purging, paralysis, and eventually death by asphyxia. Some people may also develop a rash when handling the plants.

Despite their poisonous qualities, larkspur plants were once used medicinally. Consolida plants contain an acid which is very effective in eliminating many types of insect pests. In fact, the plant was commonly used during war times to kill head lice. The juice from the leaves was used topically as a remedy for hemorrhoids.

Larkspur flowers and leaves in an infusion were given to colicky children. A tincture of the seeds was also given to treat asthma and dropsy. Since the entire plant is poisonous, it should never be used internally without the guidance of a qualified professional herbalist or physician.

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