Aconitum volubile

Common Name: monkshood 
Type: Vine
Family: Ranunculaceae
Native Range: Eastern Asia
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 8.00 to 12.00 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: August to September
Bloom Description: Purple
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer


Best grown in moist, organically rich, well-drained soils in full sun to light shade. The soil must not be allowed to dry out but should provide sufficient drainage to prevent wet conditions from developing. This plant will appreciate some afternoon shade in the St. Louis area and like the related delphiniums, it may struggle in hot St. Louis summers. This species will grow from seed more easily than other members of the genus. The seed should be sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Aconitum volubile, commonly called moonkshood is native to grassy slopes, forests, and forest margin areas of eastern Asia to western China. It is a climbing, tuberous-rooted perennial with twining stems, and small, deeply divided leaves. In late summer it bears terminal clusters of bluish purple flowers. The upper sepal of each flower develops into a large, helmet-like structure that somewhat resembles the hood worn by medieval monks, hence the common names of “monkshood” and “helmet flower.” It grows 8 to 12 ft. tall and 1 ½ to 3 ft. wide. All parts of the plant (especially the roots and seeds) are extremely poisonous.

Genus name is the Latin name from the Greek akoniton used for these poisonous herbs.

Specific epithet refers to this plant’s habit of twining.


No serious insect or disease problems. However, crown rot, powdery mildew, and verticillium wilt are occasional problems. This vining plant will need support. WEAR GLOVES WHEN WORKING WITH THIS PLANT. Avoid skin or oral contact with plant juices, and be particularly careful to cover up any open cuts or skin abrasions prior to entering garden areas. This plant may inhibit the growth of other plants, especially legumes.


This plant is good for trellises or running up into large shrubs, small trees, or wire fencing. In the St. Louis area, this plant needs consistently moist soils and grows best in moist woodland areas, along streams or ponds, or on the periphery of bog or water gardens. Aconitum volubile will grow in borders as long as the soil moisture requirements are met. Because of the poisonous properties of the plant, it probably should not be grown in areas where small children might be exposed to it or in areas contiguous to vegetable gardens where tubers are growing.