Aconitum napellus

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaRanunculaceaeAconitumAconitum napellus


These tuberous perennial herbs grow on calcareous to slightly acidic soil along stream banks, often in shade, in damp, open woodland and sometimes in damp meadows, and as aliens on roadsides, waste ground and rubbish tips. Generally lowland, but reaching 460 m at Quarnford (Staffs.).



World Distribution

European Temperate element.

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 5

Moisture (Ellenberg): 7

Reaction (Ellenberg): 7

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 6

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 4

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 15.8

Annual Precipitation (mm): 964

Height (cm): 100

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary

Non-bulbous geophyte (rhizome, corm or tuber)



Clonality - primary

Rhizome shortly creeping

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 104

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: 1.42

JNCC Designations


External Species Accounts

Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Aconitum napellus L.


Status: scarce


This plant is found in shady wet hazel, alder and oak woodland, mostly near or along the banks of streams, but it occasionally grows where there are only scattered trees. As a native plant it is exclusively lowland, but garden escapes have been recorded up to 460 metres at Quarnford. 

The plant is perennial, forming clumps by the growth of the tuberous rhizomes. It flowers in May and June, and is self-incompatible.

A. napellus has decreased in recent years, but it is still locally common in parts of the Welsh borders, Somerset and Devon. It is poisonous to stock, and Cooper & Johnson (1984) suggest that it may have been removed from places where animals can eat it. Nevertheless, it is grown for ornament in gardens, and is often naturalised. The native distribution of the species has been obscured by the presence of these alien populations. However, many naturalised plants reported as A. napellus are probably the hybrid A. napellus x A. variegatum (A. x cammarum) which commonly escapes from gardens (Rich & Rich 1988).

A. napellus is a variable species that is endemic to western and central Europe, extending southwards to central Spain and eastwards to the Carpathians, mainly in the mountains. It is absent as a native species from Scandinavia. The British plants of A. napellus, distinguished by less deeply cut and more finely pointed leaf-segments and a slightly earlier flowering period, belong to subsp. napellus (subsp. anglicum). This is restricted to western Britain and south west France (Jalas & Suominen 1989).


J. R. Akeroyd