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Delphinium leucophaeum

pale larkspur, white rock larkspur

delphinium, larkspur

Habit Herbs, perennial, from fasciculate roots or rhizomes.

30-60 cm.


blade deeply palmately divided, round to pentagonal or reniform, margins entire or lobes apically crenate or lacerate, lobes of basal blades wider and fewer than those of cauline blades.


terminal, 2-100(-more)-flowered racemes (occasionally branched, thus technically panicles), 5-40 cm or more;

bracts subtending inflorescence branches;

pedicels present or absent;

bracteoles (on pedicels) subopposite-subalternate, not forming involucre.


sepals white or light yellow, spurs 9-11 mm;

lower petal blades 4-6 mm.

bisexual, bilaterally symmetric;

sepals not persistent in fruit, 5;

upper sepal 1, spurred, 8-24 mm;

lateral sepals 2, ± ovate to elliptic, 8-18 mm;

lower sepals 2, similar to lateral sepals;

upper petals 2, spurred, enclosed in upper sepal, nectary inside tip of spur;

lower petals 2, plane, ± ovate, ± 2-lobed, clawed, 2-12 mm, nectary absent;

stamens 25-40;

filaments with base expanded;

staminodes absent between stamens and pistils;

pistils 3(-5), simple;

ovules 8-20 per pistil;

style present.


follicles, aggregate, sessile, ± curved-cylindric, sides prominently veined or not;

beak terminal, straight, 2-4 mm.


dark brown to black (often appearing white because of air in seed coat cells), rectangular to pyramidal, often ± rough surfaced.


= 8.


= 16.

Delphinium nuttallii subsp. ochroleucum


Phenology Flowering late spring.
Habitat Rock outcrops, rocky meadows
Elevation 50-100 m [200-300 ft]
from FNA
[WildflowerSearch map]
from USDA
n temperate and arctic subtropical and; in Eastern Hemisphere; tropical mountains (s of equator in Africa)
[BONAP county map]

Of conservation concern.

The range of morphologic features of Delphinium nuttallii subsp. ochroleucum (D. leucophaeum) is almost completely encompassed within that of D. nuttallii subsp. nuttallii. Sepal color is the only feature consistently separating the two subspecies. Were it not for the fact that any given population typically has plants of only one flower color, a rank of forma would be more appropriate.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Species ca. 300 (61 in the flora).

Three Eurasian species of Delphinium–D. elatum Linnaeus, D. grandiflorum Linnaeus, and D. tatsienense Franchet–have been commonly cultivated in North America. Of the nonnative taxa, only D. elatum is sporadically naturalized, as far as is known. Isolating mechanisms in Delphinium appear to be primarily ecological, geographic, and/or temporal. Where these distinctions are disrupted, introgression often exists. Hybridization occurs regularly between certain taxa, particularly in areas of disturbance (e.g., roadcuts, drainage ditches, clearcuts). The more common and easily recognized hybrids are included in the key.

Many names have been misapplied in Delphinium. The few misapplied names mentioned in discussions below refer to relatively widespread problems.

Unless otherwise noted, the key and descriptions refer to fresh material. Some features may be significantly altered by pressing; they can, however, usually be determined with a certain amount of effort and experience.

In the descriptions, "base of cleft" refers to the point where the cleft or sinus reaches most deeply into the petal blade.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

1. Lower petal blades less than 1/5 length of lateral sepals; sepals never red or yellow.
Sect. Elatopsis
1. Lower petal blades more than 1/5 length of lateral sepals; sepals blue, purple, white, red, or yellow.
Sect. Diedropetala
Source FNA vol. 3. FNA vol. 3.
Parent taxa Ranunculaceae > Delphinium > sect. Diedropetala > subsect. Grumosa > Delphinium nuttallii Ranunculaceae
Sibling taxa
D. alabamicum, D. alpestre, D. andersonii, D. andesicola, D. antoninum, D. bakeri, D. barbeyi, D. basalticum, D. bicolor, D. brachycentrum, D. californicum, D. cardinale, D. carolinianum, D. decorum, D. depauperatum, D. distichum, D. elatum, D. exaltatum, D. geraniifolium, D. geyeri, D. glareosum, D. glaucescens, D. glaucum, D. gracilentum, D. gypsophilum, D. hansenii, D. hesperium, D. hutchinsoniae, D. inopinum, D. lineapetalum, D. luteum, D. madrense, D. menziesii, D. multiplex, D. newtonianum, D. novomexicanum, D. nudicaule, D. nuttallianum, D. nuttallii, D. parishii, D. parryi, D. patens, D. polycladon, D. purpusii, D. ramosum, D. recurvatum, D. robustum, D. sapellonis, D. scaposum, D. scopulorum, D. stachydeum, D. sutherlandii, D. treleasei, D. tricorne, D. trolliifolium, D. uliginosum, D. umbraculorum, D. variegatum, D. viridescens, D. wootonii, D. xantholeucum
Subordinate taxa
Sect. Diedropetala, Sect. Elatopsis
Synonyms D. menziesii var. (ß) ochroleucum, D. leucophaeum
Name authority (Nuttall) M. J. Warnock: Phytologia 78: 98. (1995) Linnaeus: Sp. Pl. 1: 530. 175: Gen. Pl. ed 5, 236. (1754)
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