Aconitum heterophyllum [?] (Ranunculaceae) from North Sikkim. : 8 posts by 3 authors. Attachments (3)
Kindly look at the attachments. This is fairly common there.


efi page on Aconitum heterophyllum                                         


I can say with certainty that this is definitely not Aconitum heterophyllum– a species not found in the E.Himalaya. I had delayed in sending an initial response in hope that some else would name it!
My knowledge of Eastern Himalayan flora is much less with relatively few plant explorations in the region. I have not been into Sikkim proper. 
Aconitum is not an easy genus; I see there are a number of images of specimens of this genus photographed in Sikkim on efi site which have not be identified yet. Another task awaiting to take a close look at all these! Clearly there is no expert on the genus currently available?   There are quite a number of species to consider.  I could say it was similar to one or two species but need time to look into the E.Himalayan representatives further. Some 20+ species recorded from Bhutan & Sikkim – though one can readily eliminate most of these.
Shall wait further just in case there is anyone out there who can come to our assistance?


Thank you …,

There are 12 species of Aconitum recorded for Sikkim. I have no knowledge in this group.
Someone gave me a Key to the species in Sikkim which I am furnishing below thinking that it may be of some use.

1a.

Climbing or twining herbs                           2. A. elwesiii                      

  b.

Erect herbs                                                                                                                  2

2a.

Annual herbs with slender tap roots; carpels 9 – 12                         5. A. gymnandrum

 b.

Perennial or biennial herbs, usually with a paired tap root; carpels 3 – 5 (-8)               3

3a.

Inflorescences 1 – 4-flowered                                                              10. A. naviculare

 b.

Inflorescences many-flowered                                                                                     4

4a.

Perennial herbs                                                                                11. A. novoluridum

 b.

Biennial herbs                                                                                                             5

5a.

Petals hispid or hispidulous                                                                                        6

 b.

Petals glabrous                                                                                                            9

6a.

Carpels glabrous, drying black                                                                 4. A. gammiei

 b.

Carpels pubescent                                                                                                       7

7a.

Carpels 3 (-4 – 5)                                                                               8. A. laciniatum

b.

Carpels 5                                                                                                                     8

8a.

Uppermost sepal horizontal, conspicuously beaked; carpels densely yellow velutinous    9. A. nakaoi     

 b.

Uppermost sepal oblique, shortly beaked; carpels sparsely pubescent to glabrous 6. A. heterophylloides

9a.

Carpels glabrous                                                                               1. A. bisma

 b.

Carpels pubescent                                                                          10

10a.

Leaves from hypogynous base of stem                                        7. A. hookeri

  b.

Leaves basal and cauline                                                                               11

11a.

Bracteoles linear, entire; flowers dirty blue; petal head ca 6 mm long     3. A. ferox

  b.

Bracteoles broad, dentate; flowers deep blue; petal head ca 10 mm long   12. A. spicatum


Thanks for sending the key.  Would you let me know which publication this comes from?

Would you also please provide an approx. altitude and general location where you took your photos? Such information is important and should always accompany any images of any genus sent for identification.
I do have the key in ‘Flora of Bhutan’ Vol 1 Part 2 (1984), which covers Sikkim as well but clearly the knowledge of the genus in the E.Himalaya has advanced since then. 
One must always use keys with caution.  They are difficult to prepare and inevitably imperfect.  They can serve a useful purpose in narrowing down the most likely candidates but even so.
A major problem is that most are mostly prepared from a limited number of dried, pressed herbarium specimens -the characteristics of living/fresh specimens is often not known by herbarium taxonomists.
The detail one can see in photos – not matter how close-up they are (and yours are not) is often inadequate and/or requires inspect of both flowers and fruit, which seldom are available together.


Thank you. The photograph was taken from a plant near Thangu, North Sikkim at about 4000 m altitude.
This key belongs to an unpublished manuscript on the Flora of Sikkim and the family Ranunculaceae is authored by R. C. Srivastava, ex Scientist of Botanical Survey of India.
it is indeed well known that the keys to the taxa of certain plant families should be prepared by supplementary field observations as well.


Many thanks … 
Yes but the field observations need to be made in the first (good quality digital photos taken methodically can be a big help in this respect – something which has only became possible in recent years) with detailed written notes taken to accompany all pressed voucher specimens made – observations made using hands lens @ x10 and x20 magnification should be the norm.
Unfortunately, many of the 19th Century specimens collected in the Himalaya (even if they have been preserved well in Indian herbaria) had few if any field notes. Sadly, the situation has often not been much better since Indian Independence. This and the quality of actual pressed specimens needs to improve. Otherwise it makes it very hard to reliably name many plants in Indian herbaria.
The best set of pressed specimens I have seen from the NW Himalaya collected in the first half of the 20th Century (in Kulu Valley, Lahoul, Ladakh) were in the 1930s by Thakur Rup Chand (from Lahoul’s leading family) and Dr Walter Koelz of the University of Michigan – a lot of time and effort were devoted to collected these thousands (tens of thousands I believe) of specimens. There were often good field notes accompanying these – though hardly detailed by what can be done nowadays.   Though far superior to any I have seen in the major UK Herbaria for this region at Kew, Natural History Museum or Edinburgh.
These specimens were primarily collected on behalf of the Russian Nicholas Roerich for his Urusvati Institute at Naggar, Kulu Valley.
I have inspected quite a number of a duplicate set which was named (by Dr R R Stewart whose ‘Annotated Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Pakistan & Kashmir’ I regularly refer to – Stewart under took this task from the age 70 for some 20 years after retiring as Principal of Gordon College, Rawalpindi).  They are house in the Ann Arbor Herbarium, University of Michigan.  I was able to do this thanks to being on two lecture tours which included Michigan and the support of Professor Reznicek.
A duplicate set of specimens was deposited in the museum at the Urusvati Institute where they have languished for 80+ years. I have attempted but failed on more than one occasion to gain access to assess their condition (some will surely have rotted or suffered insect infestation) but others probably remain in satisfactory condition. What a pity such a resource is going to waste.
And in these days of concerns over rare & endangered species, what an outstanding source of comparative status data of the presence in the 1930s of particular species which could be compared with the occurrence (or not) of the same species in the same location nowadays.   This would represent meaningful data to judge towards conservation measures.  As I said, what a shame…..   Though not too late to do something about it, as dried, pressed specimens can last for hundreds of years and with somebody like myself to check the identify of the specimens, quite a lot may be able to be salvaged.   Though would require resources and motivation at a senior level.


There is a new suggestion – Aconitum laciniatum


Unfortunately, this is a challenging genus and requires serious investigation. I have literally dozens of genera waiting for my attention to scrutinize them further. The situation is complicated by me having fewer reference works to-hand and less knowledge/familiarity with the flora of the Eastern Himalaya.
As to the suggestion A.laciniatum it seems this is no longer an accepted name according to ‘The Plant List’.  Currently under A. heterophylloides.  According to ‘Flora of Bhutan’ this species is found on grassy alpine slopes and among shrubs @ 3500-4570m in Sikkim & Bhutan.
I cannot readily access reliable images or shots of herbarium specimens of this species.
Will be in touch when can devote the necessary time and concentration to this or come across a fresh source of information.
I see nobody else has volunteered any suggestions. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *