Aconitum variegatum seeds,
Manchurian Monkshood Aconitum variegatum belongs to the family of the Ranunculaceae, the butter cups. It is native to all mountain areas of Europe and the Caucasus. In Europe it does not occur in Great Britain and the northern Regions. Although it is not acute endangered, A. variegatum is under protection in many areas. A. variegatum is also known as Manchurian Monkshood. The Manchurian Monkshood is a perennial, herbaceous plant that reaches an average height of about 1 m. The leaves of A. variegatum are dark green and mostly palmate consisting of seven parts. They alternate at the shoot and have short petiole. The leaves of A. variegatum are not evergreen; the leaves fall down in autumn. The flower of the Manchurian Monkshood is blue, slightly violet or whitish, mostly it is a combination of those colors. The flowers appear brindled. They are zygomorphic and hermaphrodite. The helmet, meaning the upper part of the zygomorphic flower, is most of the time twice as high as wide. That is why it is called Monkshood. Due to that it can also be easily distinguished from the Aconitum napellus that is similar in color. But in Aconitum napellus the helmet is just equal in height and width. The flowers of the Manchurian Monkshood are clustered in panicles and flower from July to September or October, depending on the weather. The pollinators of the Manchurian Monkshood are mainly bumble bees. The fruit of A. variegatum is a black follicle that contains several seeds with wings. The seeds are distributed with the wind. Aconitum variegatum is highly poisonous. In the roots accumulate Diterpen alkaloids. Those alkaloids can be also found in the other plant parts in different concentrations. They are similar to the aconite in Aconitum napellus which is very poisonous. In former times one used different species of Aconitum to kill wild animals. The toxin could also kill horses and cows. But mostly horse and cows as well as other herbivores learned to avoid the plants due to its bitter taste. The bitter taste in combination with the toxicity is an effective protection against herbivory the plant evolved. One should be very carefully with the Manchurian Monkshood. One should place it out of range of children. Alkaloids act in the nerve system of humans. They interact with different receptors in the nerve cells causing cramps or inhibiting the transmission of stimuli to other nerve cells.
The seeds of the Manchurian Monkshood need a cold period before they are able to germinate. One should place them in moist substrate into the fridge for about 1 to 2 month (stratification). After that the seeds should be only pressed slightly onto the substrate and placed sunny. A. variegatum is a light germinator. At a temperature of about 20°C and constantly moist substrate, germination occurs after 3 to 6 weeks. The Manchurian Monkshood prefers nutrient rich, clayey or loamy soils. In nature A. variegatum occurs on constantly moist soils, for example near rivers. It is winter hardy and can stand temperatures down to minus 23°C.
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