Delphinium nuttallii

From Puget Prairie Plants
  • Scientific Name: Delphinium nuttallii
  • Family: Ranunculaceae
  • Common Names: Nuttall's larkspur
  • Codon: DELNUT

Photo by Rod Gilbert, 2004. Also featured on Main Page.


Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Subkingdom: Viridiplantae
Phylum: Tracheophyta
Subphylum: Spermatophytina
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Ranunculanae
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Ranunculaceae
Genus: Delphinium L.
Species: Delphinium nuttallii A. Gray
Subspecies: Delphinium nuttallii ssp. nuttallii A. Gray

Delphinium nuttallii ssp. ochroleucum (Nutt.) Warnock



Perennial herb with spurred, bluish-purple flowers growing from tuberous roots, up to 60 cm tall.[2] Stems unbranched, eglandularly puberulent.[2] Leaves alternate,[3] dissected 3-4 times into narrow segments. Inflorescences compact-racemose, many flowered,[3] simple to compound.[2] Flowers zygomorphic; sepals 5, uppermost being prominently spurred; petals blue with dark veining,[4] two unequal pairs (4 petals), upper pair spurred; many stamens;[3] pistils 3, simple, becoming 3 bent follicles, 15 mm long.[2]

Bloom Period



Pierce and eastern Grays Harbor Counties, Washington, south to the Columbia River Gorge and Clackamas County, Oregon.[2]


Gravel outwash prairies, basaltic cliffs.[2]


Landscaping-Not very easy to grow, but looks like it will reseed itself.[5]


Extended cold, moist stratification is needed. Cool spring temperatures may also be necessary. In trials at the Pullman PMC, no germination occurred without stratification and no seed germinated after 30 days cold, moist stratification. Seed sown in late December and left outside did not germinate the first season, but germinated well after a second winter. Seed sown outdoors in November will germinate the following spring. Seedlings which germinated outside died when placed in the greenhouse.

Transplanting was done in early May by using an electric drill and portable generator to drill 1.5 inch diameter holes at the planting site. Plugs must be handled carefully to protect roots. Growth after transplanting is minimal and the plants will be dormant by late June. The following year they grow vigorously and may flower. The perennating organ is a fleshy fascicled portion of the root near the soil surface. These roots can be removed from the containers in the fall while dormant and outplanted to the field. 4 year old roots thus handled averaged 13.98 mm wide at the widest point and weighed an average of 0.526 grams when outplanted.[5]


Seed sample from: 2011

Average Measurement: 1.8 x 1.2 x 0.8

Measurement Range: L: 1.25 – 2.1, W: 1 – 2, D: 0.5 – 1.2


Shape: Usually broader at hilum end, bud seeds variable. Seeds in baggy seed coat that sometimes makes seeds appear winged around the edges.

Color: Inner seed dark brown to black, seed coat white and transparent.

Surface: Seed coat finely longitudinally striate and glossy.

Could be confused with: Delphinium menziesii.

Latitudinal Cross Section: obovate DENU lat.png

Longitudinal Cross Section: semi circular

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  1. Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved from
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 WTU Herbarium, Burke Museum, & University of Washington. Retrieved from
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Hitchcock, C. L., Cronquist, A., Giblin, D., & Legler, B. et al. (2018). Flora of the Pacific Northwest: an illustrated manual. Seattle: University of Washington Press. p. 89-92.
  4. Bowcutt, F., & Hamman, S. (2016). Vascular Plants of the South Sound Prairies. p. 98.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Native Plant Network Propagation Protocol. Retrieved from