Commonly confused with the delphinium, the larkspur is actually a separate genus – the genus consolida. Although they are members of the same family, their structure and growth habits vary in that, unlike the delphinium, larkspurs blossom in an open, branched spike; their fruits are single instead of clustered, and they grow annually instead of perennially. Along its open spike, the larkspur flower blooms loosely in a vertical group along the top of the stalk. Their heads consist of both petals and sepals, one of which is elongated into a spur-like shape that is similar in appearance to a lark’s spiked back toe – thus the unusual name. Their colors range from white, to dark and pale pink, and lavender.
The larkspur flower is frequently noted in mythology. Although the better known story of the warrior Ajax furthers the confusion between the larkspur and its sister plant, the delphinium, there are many other stories that cite this flower. According to one myth of a Native American tribe, this flower came into being by a curious celestial figure who ripped open the evening sky, scooped up and twisted a portion of it and created a spike. When she plunged it down to earth so as to climb down and satiate her curiosity, small blue flecks of sky adhered to it. Eventually the sun dried out the stalk, and scattered small pieces along the planet, thus creating the delicate larkspur flower. The larkspur flower is also said to have a good deal of use in folk remedies and magic. The flower was once used both by witches, and to protect people and animals against witches. In Transylvania, dried larkspur was placed in stables to keep sorcerers from casting their spells upon the animals; in England, however, both dried and fresh larkspurs were used in protection spells, to cure ailments, and as integral ingredients in Summer Solstice celebrations.
As is the case with most plants, each color of the larkspur flower has its own separate meaning. Pink generally represents fickleness, white signifies a happy-go-lucky nature, while purple is often indicative of first love and a sweet disposition. In general, though, these flowers represent an open heart, and are sometimes associated with strong romantic bonds, which is why many people give these flowers as unique gifts to both old and new lovers. Although most people give larkspurs in the form of a bouquet – usually with contrasting flowers that hold a similar message – some prefer to give a single stalk, so as to convey a clear message of a strong emotional attachment to the recipient.