The Monkshood / Aconite

Aconitum firmum Rchb.

This plant is under strict protection. It can grow from 1 up to 1,5 m, blooming  from June till August. The flowers are very characteristic, violet in colour, appearing in the form of a cylindrical helmets and forming a clustered inflorescence. A folk name for this plant is ‘a murderer’ (‘mordownik’), which should be  no surprise, as the plant is one of the most poisonous ones occurring in Poland. It contains an extremely strong poison called aconitinum that is able to penetrate through the skin. This feature makes every part of the plant highly poisonous. An intake of only 2  grams of the root can cause paralysis and in consequence lead to painful death. In old times the monkshood was applied by folk medicine as a painkiller and a remedy for rheumatism. However, the plant was more often used for religious and magical purposes. Thanks to its beautiful, violet navy blue flowers, monkshood was kept as an ornamental plant. It used to be called ‘the court shoes of Saint Mary’ due to the shape of its flowers. The plant may occur in its feral form, but was commonly cultivated in home gardens as well. The shrines and the doors of the orthodox churches were decorated with its beautiful flowers.