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.).
All records of A. napellus sens. str. and A. x cammarum are mapped here. The British A. napellus is regarded as the endemic subsp. napellus, suggesting that it is native, but the species has long been grown in gardens and was not recorded in the wild until 1821. It may be over-recorded as a supposed native in the Welsh Marches.
European Temperate element.
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
External Species Accounts
Scarce Atlas Account
Aconitum napellus L.
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
PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.