Range: Colorado and Wyoming to Oregon, northward to Alaska. Habitat: Hillsides, bench lands, and mountain ranges Up to about ten thousand feet.
Very common in most parts of its range and much less restricted in its habitat than the Tall Larkspur, this plant is considered by stockmen even more pernicious. Sheep are most often its victims but other stock also are affected. It is a small plant, six to fifteen inches tall, smooth or only slightly hairy, rather stout for its height, the stem rising from thick, fascicled, deep-set roots. Leaves deeply five- to seven-parted, the segments again divided into nearly linear lobes, which on the lower leaves have rounded tips but above become more slim and pointed. They are succulent and liked by grazing animals only when young, the time when they are most harmful. Raceme terminal, the flowers few but large, often exceeding an inch in width, the sepals and the spurs of about the same length and of a deep, rich purple; the two upper petals pale yellow or white, and netted over with purple veins. Follicles three, smooth, erect or sometimes recurving. Like the Buttercups, Larkspurs seem to lose much, if not all, of their toxic quality when dried in hay; but, unfortunately, the seeds retain vitality, and, when the hay is baled and sold, are likely to increase the range of a very noxious weed.
1 The Stock-poisoning Plants of Montana: A preliminary report. Bulletin No. 26, Division of Botany, U. S. Department of Agriculture.
In restricted localities and small areas, the perennial roots may be pulled or grubbed out or the land may be put under cultivation and reseeded. But on open ranges, the only practicable way seems to be to guard the animals by herding them away from the weed until it becomes so mature that they will eat other forage in preference.