Aconitum noveboracense - Gray ex Coville
Northern Wild Monkshood
Other English Common Names: Northern Blue Monkshood
Other Common Names: northern blue monkshood
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Aconitum noveboracense Gray ex Coville (TSN 181849)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.149181
Element Code: PDRAN01070
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Buttercup Family
Image 10395

© Alfred R. Schotz

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Ranunculales Ranunculaceae Aconitum
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Aconitum noveboracense
Taxonomic Comments: Aconitum noveboracense, Northern Monkshood, exhibits a distribution pattern that highly suggests it is a glacial relict. Further supporting this idea is its very specific habitat requirement, algific talus slopes. Molecular studies show that this species may not be distinct from A. columbianum, a western species (Cole and Kuchenreuther 2001, Flora North America vol. 3). A. noveboracense is a federally listed species.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 02Nov2009
Global Status Last Changed: 22Jun1990
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: This species occurs in three isolated geographic regions: northeastern Iowa/southwestern Wisconsin, northeastern Ohio, and the Catskill Mountains of New York. The largest concentrations are in Iowa and Wisconsin. Some of the populations in this region are quite large (one population in Iowa has about 10,000 individuals). There are eleven extant occurrences in New York and only two or three in Ohio.

It is believed that this species is a glacial relict, that as the glaciers retreated during the Pleistocene, this species only survived in a microhabitat that mimiced its habitat during this cooler era, but during the glaciated time that this species was more common. The populations of this species are geographically isolated from one another and the distribution of this species is limited by its highly specific microclimate needs, which currently are near algific talus slopes in which cold air spills out from caves with ice as a substrate (Cole and Kuchenreuther 2001).

The species is slow-growing, very sensitive to disturbance, and is currently significantly threatened by various disturbances including dams, reservoirs, road/powerline construction and maintenance, quarrying and logging operations. The lack of protected occurrences in some areas is of concern.

Finally, genetic studies have revealed that this species is not distinguishable from the western species A. columbianum, suggesting that these two species should be considered one (Cole and Kuchenreuther 2001). With this said, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not believe that enough population data were collected to lump this species into the more western A. columbianum (Mabry et al. 2009).

Nation: United States
National Status: N3

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Iowa (S2), New York (S1), Ohio (S1), Wisconsin (S2)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LT: Listed threatened (26Apr1978)
Comments on USESA: Aconitum noveboracense was proposed threatened on July 16, 1976 (along with 1,782 other plants) and determined threatened on April 26, 1978.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R3 - North Central

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Known only from three isolated geographic regions: the Catskill Mountains of New York, northeastern Ohio, and the Driftless Area" (unglaciated portion) of northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin. Iowa: Alamakee, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuqe, Jackson counties; Ohio: Portage, Summit counties; New York: Chenango (historical records), Ulster, Delaware, Sullivan counties; Wisconsin: Grant, Monroe, Richland, Sauk, Vernon counties.

The majority of the range of this species is in the Driftless area of Iowa (Mabry et al. 2009).

Area of Occupancy: 1-125 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments:  

Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: There are 84 sites known in Iowa, 19 in Wisconsin, 3 in Ohio and 11 in New York. There may only be two sites of this species left in Ohio. In 2006 the habitat of one of the sites was dramatically altered and only one plant was found, this being a large decline from the nearly 100 plants found at this site in the late 1980s (Ohio Natural Heritage Program 2007).

Population Size Comments: Largest populations are found in Iowa (one population is estimated at 10,000 individuals); population sizes are smaller in Wisconsin, ranging from 65 to 1,000 individuals; two small populations (ca. 100 individuals) are found in Ohio; in New York population sizes range from < 10 to ca. 1,000 individuals. (Hanowski, 1983 (updated 1986)).

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Dams and reservoirs, road/powerline construction and maintenance, logging/quarrying operations, grazing, foot traffic, development, overcollecting, sink hole filling, and invasive plants (Garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata) are all threats to this species (Mabry et al. 2009).

In addition, there are threats from predators, but some are native herbivores like slugs, catepillars and white-tailed deer. Further, Noctuid moths (Megalographa biloba) and fungal infections have been found on the plants. The dramatic decline in Bumblebees (Bombus spp.) is also a threat to this species since Bumblebees are known to pollinate this species (Mabry et al. 2009).

Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable
Short-term Trend Comments: A recent study of this species in Iowa, the area of the country with the most populations of this species, showed several trends. In several populations in Iowa, the number of plants decreased over several years prior beginning in 1994, but then recovered in 2004 and 2005. While this recovery was seen, the number of stems on each plant and the number of nodes on a plant decreased steadily. The number of fruits produced also declined or remained constant over the time period sampled (1992-2005). Finally, the number of cotyledons and juvenile plants followed the same pattern as density, i.e. the number of total plants (Mabry et al. 2009).

These trend data show a mixed picture of how this species has faired in Iowa over a number of years. Density decreased and then recovered, while reproduction decreased or remained constant. These trend variables were also noticed in other population observations, and these observations were thought to correlate with drought (Mabry et al. 2009). All in all, it isn't clear what specifically is driving the trends in population numbers and reproduction.

It should be noted that there are probably many factors influencing the trends of this species across it's range given it's scattered and glacial margin distribution, and its highly specific microclimate.

Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Very sensitive to disturbance, generally slow-growing and not very viable when transplanted.

Environmental Specificity: Very narrow. Specialist or community with key requirements scarce.
Environmental Specificity Comments: This Aconitum species inhabits a very specific habitat, known as agific talus slopes. This habitat type is characterized by carbonate talus slopes where cold air spills out from ice filled caves. These caves are thermally buffered by the surrounding slopes. The soil temperature rarely goes above 15C in the summer. The surrounding forest is deciduous and the caves are usually situated on north-facing slopes (Nekola 1999).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: Known only from three isolated geographic regions: the Catskill Mountains of New York, northeastern Ohio, and the Driftless Area" (unglaciated portion) of northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin. Iowa: Alamakee, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuqe, Jackson counties; Ohio: Portage, Summit counties; New York: Chenango (historical records), Ulster, Delaware, Sullivan counties; Wisconsin: Grant, Monroe, Richland, Sauk, Vernon counties.

The majority of the range of this species is in the Driftless area of Iowa (Mabry et al. 2009).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States IA, NY, OH, WI

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
IA Allamakee (19005), Clayton (19043), Delaware (19055), Dubuque (19061), Jackson (19097), Jones (19105)
NY Chenango (36017)*, Delaware (36025), Sullivan (36105)*, Ulster (36111)
OH Hocking (39073), Portage (39133), Summit (39153)
WI Grant (55043), Monroe (55081), Richland (55103), Sauk (55111), Vernon (55123)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
02 Middle Hudson (02020006)+, Rondout (02020007)+, East Branch Delaware (02040102)+, Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead (02040104)+, Chenango (02050102)+*
04 Cuyahoga (04110002)+
05 Mahoning (05030103)+, Lower Scioto (05060002)+
07 Coon-Yellow (07060001)+, Upper Iowa (07060002)+, Grant-Little Maquoketa (07060003)+, Turkey (07060004)+, Maquoketa (07060006)+, Baraboo (07070004)+, Lower Wisconsin (07070005)+, Kickapoo (07070006)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: An erect to reclining or climbing perennial herb with stems up to 2.5 m long. Small clusters of pale to dark blue or white flowers bloom in July and August.
General Description: An upright herbaceous perennial vaguely similar to Delphinium exaltatum, D. tricorne, and southern monkshood which occurs in similar habitat.
Technical Description: Herbaceous, erect to reclining or climbing perennial, .2-2.5 m. long; tubers 1-8 cm. long, to 1.5 cm. thick; inflorescence a terminal raceme, or open pancile of lateral racemes with rachises, pedicels short, stout or long, slender and flexuous; leaves glabrous, reniform to ovate, (5-)7-lobed, lobes very narrow and deeply toothed or cleft; cauline leaves become smaller upward, stem glabrous; inflorescence rachises and pedicels pubescent; flowers few, pale to deep blue or white, helmet mostly about as high as long, or slightly prolonged above the lateral descending beak; numerous slender stamens, 3-5 short pistils; carpels 3, glabrous, pubescent, or glabrate; fruit dehiscent, several seeded, scaly. (from U86OES01HQUS)
Diagnostic Characteristics: This species isn't distinguishable from A. columbianum and is considered by Cole and Kuchenreuther (2001) to be part of A. columbianum.

Differs from Delphinium exaltatum & D. tricorne, which have spurred sepals, by its hooded sepals; differs from A. uncinatum by degree of pubescence and flower shape.

Duration: PERENNIAL
Reproduction Comments: Showy, zygomorphic flowers adapted for pollination by bumblebees; seeds are probably dispersed by water (ie. flowing streams). Sexual and vegetative reproduction occur. The northern monkshood produces flowers from June until August and produces 30-45 seeds from each flower. 'Daughter' ramets or stems can grow out of parent tubers and this is the main form of vegetative reproduction. Also, bulbils are formed in some populations at the leaf axes. These bulbils can produce tubers and apical meristems. This species over winters as a tuber and all tissue connecting the parent plant to the daugher ramets is gone (Mabry et al. 2009).
Ecology Comments: The northern wild monkshood is commonly associated with species typical of eastern deciduous forest, and marsh and swamp wetlands.
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Bare rock/talus/scree, Cliff
Habitat Comments: This species occurs in a unique habitat, algific talus slopes, which is characterized by north-facing, carbonate talus slopes where cold air and moisture pours out of ice filled caves. These caves maintain a below freezing temperature throughout the year and yield surrounding soil temperatures of 15C or less (Nekola 1999).

Shaded or partially shaded cliffs and talus slopes in Ohio, Iowa, and Wisconsin, and at high-elevation headwaters and in crevices along streams in New York. There seems to be no rock substrate favored by the species overall. The most significant common habitat factor appears to be the cold soil environment associated with these cliff, talus slope, and spring/headwater stream situations. In most of the habitats occupied by northern wild monkshood there is either active and continuous cold air drainage or cold ground water flowage out of the nearby bedrock. The year-round soil temperatures average from 11 to 18 degrees Celsius. Local distribution of the species is also closely associated with areas where ground water or subterranean air is emanating, which contributes to a local microclimate with high relative humidity.

Economic Attributes
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Economic Comments: The species has some direct positive values to mankind which include: probable medicinal values, horticultural potential, and source of hybrid genetic material. The genus has been of interest pharmacologically for centuries. Most parts of the plant, particularly the roots and leaves, contain poisonous alkaloids that are paralytic to the nervous and circulatory systems. Old World monkshood have been the source of the drugs aconite and aconitine. It may be that the alkaloids found in northern wild monkshood are unique or in recoverable quantities for commercial purposes, but this has not been researched. The species does have horticultural potential as a garden perennial and has been propogated by the Univ. of Wisconsin. As a source of hybrid genetic material the value of monkshood is promising. Using plant breeding research techniques, genetic attributes of the species may be incorporated into other species to produce hybrid, ornamental garden monkshood with better horticultural qualities. (from U86OES01HQUS)
Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 26Jun1986
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Edmondson, L. & L. Morse (1983), rev. C. Russell and S. Gottlieb (1986), rev. J. Pearson/K. Maybury (1996), S.Neid (1997), rev. L. Oliver (2009)
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 29Dec1989

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Brink, D. 1982. Tuberous Aconitum (Ranunculaceae) of the continental United States: Morphological variation, taxonomy and disjunction. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 109(1):13-23.

  • Brynildson, I. 1982. Wisconsin's Endangered Flora. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison. 48pp.

  • Cole, C. T. and M. A. Kuchenreuther. 2001. Molecular markers reveal little genetic differentiation among Aconitum noveboracense and A. columbianum (Ranunculaceae) populations. American Journal of Botany 88(2): 337-347.

  • Fernald, M. L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. Corrected printing (1970). D. Van Nostrand Company, New York. 1632 pp.

  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 1997. Flora of North America north of Mexico. Vol. 3. Magnoliophyta: Magnoliidae and Hamamelidae. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. xxiii + 590 pp.

  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 1997. Flora of North America, North of Mexico. Volume 3. Magnoliophyta: Magnoliidae and Hamamelidae.

  • Gleason, H.A. 1952. The new Britton and Brown illustrated flora of the northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. 3 volumes. Hafner Press, New York. 1732 pp.

  • Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.

  • Hardin, J.W. 1964. Variation in Aconitum of eastern United States. Brittonia 16:80-94.

  • Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Litzow, M. 1978. Aconitum novaboracense Gray: a summary of the literature. University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Chanhassen, MN. 4pp.

  • Mabry, C., C. Henry, and C. Dettman. 2009. Population trends in Northern Monkshood Aconitum noveboracense at four sample intevals over fifteen years. Natural Areas Journal 29(2): 146-156.

  • McCance, R.M., Jr., and J.F. Burns, eds. 1984. Ohio endangered and threatened vascular plants: Abstracts of state-listed taxa. Division Natural Areas and Preserves, Ohio Dept. Natural Resources, Columbus. 635 pp.

  • Mitchell, Richard S. and Charles J. Sheviak. 1981. Rare Plants of New York State. Bull No. 445. New York State Museum. Univ. of New York. State Ed. Department Albany, NY.

  • Mitchell, Richard S. and Gordon C. Tucker. 1997. Revised Checklist of New York State Plants. Contributions to a Flora of New York State. Checklist IV. Bulletin No. 490. New York State Museum. Albany, NY. 400 pp.

  • Nekola, J. C. 1999. Paleorefugia and neorefugia: the influence of colonization history on community pattern and process. Ecology 80(8): 2459-2473.

  • New York Natural Heritage Program. 2010. Biotics database. New York Natural Heritage Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.

  • Office of Endangered Species. 1986. Endangered species information system, species record for Aconitum noveboracense. 19 pp.

  • Ohio Natural Heritage Program. 2007. Factsheet for Aconitum noveboracense A. Gray. Northern Monkshood. ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preseves. 2045 Morse Rd, Building F-1, Columbus, OH 43229. Available at: www.ohiodnr.com/dnap (Accessed Oct. 26, 2009).

  • Read, R.H. 1976. Endangered and threatened vascular plants in Wisconsin. Technical bulletin No. 92. Scientific Areas Preservation Council. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison.

  • Read, R.H. and J.B. Hale. 1983. National Recovery Plan for Northern Monkshood (Aconitum novaboracense). Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, Wisconsin. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Region 3).

  • Read, R.H., and J.B. Hale. 1981. National recovery plan for the northern monk's hood (Aconitum noveboracense). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1978. Determination that 11 plant taxa are endangered species and 2 plant taxa are threatened species. Federal Register 43(81): 17910-17916.

  • Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research http://www.fccdr.usf.edu/. University of South Florida http://www.usf.edu/]. New York Flora Association http://wwws.nyflora.org/, Albany, New York

  • Weldy, Troy W. and David Werier. 2005. New York Flora Atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research. University of South Florida]. New York Flora Association, Albany, NY. Available on the web at (http://atlas.nyflora.org/).

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