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Aquilegia atrata, columbine

Aquilegia atrata, columbine

Summary

This easy to grow, early flowering plant may have had a significant role in terminating unwanted pregnancies.

Blog Entries

Read more about Aquilegia atrata, columbine, in these blog entries (most recent first);
Plants that may be especially harmful during pregnancy and childbirth

Family

Ranunculaceae

Meaning of the Name

Aquilegia
From the Latin 'aquila', 'eagle', based on the view that the flowers look like an eagle swooping.

atrata
The Latin word atrata means blackened or dingy but it is hard to see why this name should be applied to this brightly flowering plant.

Common Names and Synonyms

columbine, granny's bonnet, lion’s herb, lady's shoes

How Poisonous, How Harmful?

Charles-Ernest Cornevin, in 'Des plantes vénéneuses et des empoisonnements qu’elles déterminent' (Poisonous Plants and the Poisonings they Cause), 1893, said that it contains aconitine, see Aconitum napellus. This seems to be the basis of its poisonous reputation because there is no scientific evidence for toxicity. It is not on the HTA list of potentially harmful plants and Liz Dauncey includes in her list of plants that are safe to grow for children.

Incidents

There are no recorded specific cases of harm but it is said that, in the past, the wise woman in the village would use its, alleged but unproven, abortificant properties to provide a community service.


Aquilegia atrata, columbine

Seeds on Aquilegia atrata, columbine

Folklore and Facts

Lions eat the flowers in the spring to give them extra strength so rubbing the flowers in your hands will give you courage.

Perhaps because of its ability to produce miscarriage it is a symbol of folly and lost love.

It is said that the seeds were ground up in wine to produce the correct strength to cause a miscarriage but it is not known whether this was to to keep the remedy mysterious and, thus, the province of the village witch.

As an aside, it is interesting to see that in most folktales a woman who uses an herbal remedy which proves efficacious is referred to as being wise whereas a remedy which results in harm is almost always administered by a witch.

IMPORTANT NOTE

The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.

 

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A to Z Links

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Introduction to the A to Z section
Abrus precatorius, rosary pea
Aconitum lycoctonum, wolfsbane
Aconitum napellus, monkshood
Actaea racemosa, black cohosh
Actaea spicata, baneberry
Aesculus hippocastanum, horse chestnut
Amanita muscaria, fly agaric
Aquilegia atrata, columbine
Aristolochia clematitis, birthwort
Artemisia absinthium, wormwood
Arum italicum, Italian cuckoopint
Arum maculatum, cuckoopint
Aspergillus fumigatus
Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade
Brugmansia suaveolens, angel's trumpet
Bryonia dioica, bryony
Buxus sempervirens, common box
Camellia sinensis, tea
Cannabis sativa, marijuana
Catha edulis, khat
Chelidonium majus, greater celandine
Cimicifuga racemosa, black cohosh
Claviceps purpurea, ergot
Clematis vitalba, old man's beard
Colchicum autumnale, naked ladies
Conium maculatum, poison hemlock
Convallaria majalis, lily of the valley
Cynoglossum officinale, hound’s tongue
Daphne mezereon, spurge olive
Datura stramonium, thorn apple, jimsonweed
Datura suaveolens, angel's trumpet
Delphinium, larkspur
Digitalis spp., foxglove
Dracunculus vulgaris, dragon arum
Echium vulgare, viper’s bugloss
Eranthis hyemalis, winter aconite
Erythroxylum coca, cocaine
Euonymus europaeus, spindle tree
Euphorbia x martinii, red spurge
Euphorbia pulcherrima, poinsettia
Fritillaria spp., fritillary
Galanthus nivalis, snowdrop
Hedera helix, common ivy
Helleborus spp., hellebore
Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed
Hyacinthoides non-scripta, bluebell
Hyoscyamus niger, black henbane
Ilex aquifolium, holly
Jacobaea vulgaris, ragwort
Juniperus communis, common juniper
Laburnum anagyroides, laburnum
Lactuca serriola, prickly lettuce
Leucojum aestivum, snowflake
Lithospermum officinale, gromwell
Lolium temulentum, darnel
Malus 'John Downie', crab apple
Mandragora officinarum, mandrake
Mercurialis perennis, dog’s mercury
Narcissus, daffodil
Nepeta faassenii, catmint
Nerium oleander, oleander
Nicotiana sylvestris, tobacco
Oenanthe crocata, hemlock water dropwort
Papaver somniferum, opium poppy
Pastinaca sativa, parsnip
Polygonatum odoratum, angular Solomon's seal
Prunus laurocerasus, cherry laurel
Pulsatilla vulgaris, pasque flower
Ranunculus acris, meadow buttercup
Rheum x hybridum, rhubarb
Rhododendron spp.
Rhus radicans, poison ivy
Ricinus communis, castor oil plant
Rosmarinus officinalis, rosemary
Rumex obtusifolius, broad-leaved dock
Ruta graveolens, rue
Salix alba, white willow
Salvia divinorum, sage
Scutellaria laterifolia, Virginian skullcap
Senecio jacobaea, ragwort
Solanum dulcamara, woody nightshade
Solanum melongena, aubergine
Strychnos nux-vomica, poison nut
Symphoricarpos albus, snowberry
Symphytum spp., comfrey
Taxus baccata, yew
Toxicodendron radicans, poison ivy
Thevetia peruviana, yellow oleander
Urtica dioica, stinging nettle
Veratrum album, white hellebore
Verbascum olympicum, Greek mullein
Vinca major, greater periwinkle
Viscum album, mistletoe
Vitex agnus-castus, chaste tree