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any of several species of the genus Aconitum of the family Ranunculaceae (buttercupbuttercup
or crowfoot,
common name for the Ranunculaceae, a family of chiefly annual or perennial herbs of cool regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Thought to be one of the most primitive families of dicotyledenous plants, the Ranunculaceae typically have a simple
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 family), hardy perennial plants of the north temperate zone, growing wild or cultivated for ornamental or medicinal purposes. They contain violent poisons that were recognized from early times and were mentioned by Shakespeare (2 King Henry IV, iv:4); more recently they have been used medicinally in a liniment, tincture, and drug, and in India on spears and arrows for hunting. The drug aconite, the active principle of which is the alkaloid aconitine, is used as a sedative, e.g., for neuralgia and rheumatism, and is obtained from A. napellus. Aconites are erect or trailing, with deeply cut leaves and, in late summer and fall, hooded showy flowers of blue, yellow, purple, or white. The name wolfsbane derives from an old superstition that the plant repelled werewolves. Winter aconite is a name for plants of the genus Eranthis, wild or garden perennials of the same family. Aconites are classified in the division MagnoliophytaMagnoliophyta
, division of the plant kingdom consisting of those organisms commonly called the flowering plants, or angiosperms. The angiosperms have leaves, stems, and roots, and vascular, or conducting, tissue (xylem and phloem).
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, class Magnoliopsida, order Ranunculales, family Ranunculaceae.
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(pop culture)

Aconite (aconitum napellus) is another name for wolfsbane or monkshood. This poisonous plant was believed by the ancient Greeks to have arisen in the mouths of Cerberus (a three-headed dog that guards the entrance to Hades) while under the influence of Hecate, the goddess of magic and the underworld. It later was noted as one of the ingredients of the ointment that witches put on their body in order to fly off to their sabbats. In Dracula (Spanish, 1931), aconite was substituted for garlic as the primary plant used to repel the vampire.


Emboden, William A. Bizarre Plants: Magical, Monstrous, Mythical. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1974. 214 pp.
The Vampire Book, Second Edition © 2011 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Aconitum), monkshood, a genus of perennial herbaceous plants of the family Ranunculaceae. Roots are tuberous and thickened; leaves palmate-incised or palmate-compound; flowers yellow, blue, or violet, rarely white, arranged in a more or less thick apical raceme. The calyx consists of five petaloid colored bracts. The upper bract resembles a helmet covering two nectaries (modified petals). About 300 species grow in the northern hemisphere, about 75 of these in the USSR. Most of the aconite species are poisonous; they contain alkaloids such as aconitine and zongorine. Many aconite species are cultivated as ornamentals.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Any plant of the genus Aconitum. Also known as friar's cowl; monkshood; mousebane; wolfsbane.
A toxic drug obtained from the dried tuberous root of Aconitum napellus; the principal alkaloid is aconitine.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


, aconitum
1. any of various N temperate plants of the ranunculaceous genus Aconitum, such as monkshood and wolfsbane, many of which are poisonous
2. the dried poisonous root of many of these plants, sometimes used as an antipyretic
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
They include winter aconite and glory-of-the-snow as well as snowdrops.
The winter aconite sports lemon-yellow flowers above collars of dark green foliage, naturalizes well and is deer-proof.
From the moment the first snowdrops and winter aconite bloom in early spring until the last flowers of sedum fade, I am thankful for the beautiful flowers in my garden.
Gardeners can help by providing the right flowers ( good plants to try include crocus, grape hyacinth (muscari) and winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), as well as pulmonaria, Clematis cirrhosa, Erica carnea and spring-flowering mahonias.
Anemones also look great planted among the yellow blooms of the winter aconite and the propeller-shaped flowers of Cyclamen coum.
DON'T forget that many bulbs also do quite well in woodland situations, and, provided you plant them out of the main rooting area of the hedge, plants such as Narcissus, snowdrop and winter aconite do quite well so long as they are mulched regularly and given water during particularly dry weather.
While snowdrops (Galanthus) and winter aconite (Eranthis) hold a special place in my heart because they are the very first bulbs to bloom, the real show begins with crocus.
Please send cheques and postal orders made payable to Mr Fothergill's to People Winter Aconite Offer, Mr Fothergill's, Rookery Farm, Holbeach St Johns, Spalding, Lincs, PE12 8SG and clearly state your name and address.
DELICATE FLOWER: Erythronium adds subtle colour WHITE DELIGHT: Snowdrops form a beautiful, natural carpet WINTER WARMER: Provide a bright start to the year with a splash of colour from winter aconite WHITE LIGHT: Crocuses are always popular
PLANT corms of the yellow winter aconite for flowering from February ( in drifts for the best effect.
In my garden, squirrels and chipmunks have left winter aconite and snowdrops alone while eating all of the crocus.