Scarlet seems an odd color for a Larkspur, but there are two red ones in the West. This is an exceedingly airy, graceful plant and suggests a Columbine more than a Larkspur. The stem is slender and branching, from one to over two feet tall, with a "bloom"; the leaves thickish, smooth, dark rich green on the upper side and pale on the under. The flowers are far apart, from two to twelve, on long pedicels, forming a very loose, open cluster. Each flower is about an inch long; the sepals scarlet shading to yellow, the spur tipped with deeper red, the petals yellow tipped with crimson, not woolly, the two upper notched and much larger than the two lower ones, which are small and slashed into two points, the edges of both sepals and petals more or less hairy; the buds pale yellowish-green, tinged with pink and red. These charming flowers have an elfin look all their own, as they swing their little pointed red caps in the light shade of cool canyons along the mountain streams they love. In southern California we find D. cardinale, a handsomer plant, sometimes six feet tall, its flowers larger and deeper red and forming a larger, closer cluster.
Scarlet Larkspur-Delphinium nudicaule. BUTTERCUP FAMILY. Ranunculaceae.
The picturesque Columbine gets its melodious name from the Latin for "dove," because the spurs suggest a circle of pretty little pigeons, and this common name is less far-fetched than the Latin one, Aquilegia, which comes from a fancied resemblance of the spurs to an eagle's claws. These plants are well known and easily recognized by the peculiar shape of the flowers. Everything about them is decorative and beautiful, the foliage is pretty and the flowers large, brightly colored, and conspicuous. They are all perennials, with branching stems and compound leaves; the flowers usually nodding, with five sepals all alike and resembling petals, and five petals, also all alike, with conspicuous, hollow spurs. The stamens, the inner ones without anthers, are numerous and the five pistils develop into a head of five, erect, many-seeded pods. There is honey in the spurs, which can be reached only by "long-tongued" insects or humming birds, which thus assist in cross-pollination, and bees obviate the difficulty of having short tongues by ingeniously cutting holes in the spurs. There are a good many beautiful kinds, both East and West.