Monkshood: Yay or Nay?

Conshohocken, PA

I just bought a beautiful Monkshood plant for my cottage perennial garden. The cashier said "Don't eat it! It's poisonous!" and I said I won't. I have foxglove and I know as long as I don't eat them I'll be fine.

But after I got home, I looked Monkshood up online and am now completely scared of it.

I won't eat it--I don't eat anything from my garden. Also, I have no--and will have no pets--or kids to worry me about it. So, I know not to eat it, but I read that you can absorb the poison just by HANDLING the plant? What are we talking here? Like, I forget it's poisonous so I go trimming it down without gloves, and then I get sick or die? Or, after touching it with my garden gloves, are those gloves now forever deadly? I have a fairly crowded garden, so I may accidentally touch it when pinching or deadheading neighboring plants without gloves.

Will it kill the groundhogs (which I dont' want to happen)?

So, should I return it, or am I over-reacting?

What are your experiences with the beeeeautiful plant? Good? Bad? Do you recommend it?

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Most wild animals are smart enough not to mess with plants that are toxic so I wouldn't worry too much about your groundhogs. As far as whether you should be that scared of it, I'd suggest doing the same search on foxglove which you clearly are comfortable growing...if the info you find out there on monkshood makes it seem scarier to you than the foxglove then get rid of it, but you may find that the suggested precautions for both of them are similar (you're supposed to wear gloves to handle foxgloves too for example)

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

I have and love both foxgloves and Monkshood. I wear gloves when I garden to protect my hands, but don't think twice about handling cut flowers bare-handed. So far, I haven't cut the Monkshood, come to think of it, but the foxgloves are no problem. I certainly know not to eat them!

Some people have dogs that chew on plants, so toxicity is an issue. They get sick though, they don't die as far as I know. Otherwise, most animals, especially the wild ones, know enough to keep away. I wouldn't have either close to the house in case of visiting small children. Presumably by the time they are old enough to wander farther away alone, they can be taught.

Both my plants are venerable perennials that have been in my garden many years longer than I have, and since I started putting them in cultivated beds they multiply and self-sow generously. I move them around and share them freely with no ill effects to anyone. So far I haven't been poisoned by residue on the gloves, or by inadvertently brushing against a plant. I do think it's smart to respect the plant's qualities, especially the Monkshood, but I don't take abnormal precautions.

And they are sooooo beautiful!


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Warners, NY

I have had monkshood for decades and it seeds itself all over. I don't handle the tubers with my bare hands, otherwise I never think about it. My woods are full of toxic plants---not to mention daffodils, lily of the valley and other garden plants that may be toxic but I'm not going to use them in a salad. Nor pick the toxic mushrooms that grow all down my woods path. It's probably a good thing most people don't know how many plants are toxic as we would have empty gardens. Around here there is some kind of escaped giant hog weed that is supposed to be really scary--blistering rash-----that really scares me.-----------------------------------------Weedy

Conshohocken, PA

Thank you all for your reassurances!

My Monkshood is now proudly in its new home in the cottage garden--with a small decorative gate around it just to remind me and guests to keep away.

ecrane3--I'm glad that animals usually keep away. I honestly had no idea how that worked (animals and poisonous plants.) I just know if I saw my groundhog buddy keeled over in the garden, I'd feel horrible--even if he does snack on my plants!

Pfg--Beautiful pictures! thank you! I'm especially fond of your yellow foxgloves. I had such a hard time finding them that I had to order a "variety pack" by that included yellow and other colors (pink--blech!) by mail. As you know, they won't be flowering this year, but I just can't wait to see 'em next year!

weedyseedy - "It's probably a good thing most people don't know how many plants are toxic as we would have empty gardens." You're completely right! I know I'll never eat anything out of my garden, but when I do research online about plants just in case, I get scared to death! also, just found out about that giant hog weed when I transplanted a native weed around here that I really liked into the garden (turned out to be be toothpick weed), but when researching what it might be, I was scared to death I just put giant hog weed in my garden!!

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

Are the ones you ordered true perennials, or biennials? My clumps expand every year and self-sow, and i think they even bloom the first year. If you would like some plants I'll be happy to send some, I have more than enough to go around. It's probably too hot to mail now, but if you remind me in September I can dig as much as you want.


Clementon, NJ

Conshohocken, PA
Yellow Digitalis, check out any of the on line garden suppliers. I know White Flower Farm has the yellow foxglove. Thats where I bought it.

Re: Mockshood & ladybells.
I lost both in my garden placed in part sun, with sunny afternoons. Is it my acidic soil?

Warners, NY

My Digitalis grandiflora has finally started seeding itself and the self sown plants are better than those I bought. Home Depot had a lot of them this year, I think I now have two slightly different varieties----now if I can just get the yellow thalictrum to seed itself--it just sits there, year after year.-----------------------------Weedy

Pittsford, NY(Zone 6a)

I have an early blooming variety of Monkshood. It never occured to me to be that careful.
I also dont eat plants from my garden.I am a nature lover but not driven to foraging in my yard.My cousin tried to get me to eat Lambs Quarters.Nope,not even thos.
Digitalis doesnt grow in my garden.Tried 3 times and no luck so I move on.
White Monkshood does really well and blooms in late May.
Dont be affraid of your garden.!!

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(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Great looking plant, Jo Ann. Love the long views of your beautiful gardens.

(Zone 4b)

The flowers in October for my MH are a striking blue. However my MH are so tall that I have several stalks that keel over well in advance of flowering :(.

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