Northern wild monkshood is a federally threatened plant listed in 1978 and found in three disjunct populations: one bordering southwest Wisconsin and northeast Iowa, a second in northeast Ohio, and a third residing in the Catskill Mountains of New York. A member of the buttercup family, the species can be found on shaded to partially shaded cliffs, algific talus slopes, or on cool, streamside sites.
Threats to northern monkshood are predominately related to habitat loss or degradation. Possible threats include: contamination and filling of sinkholes, grazing and trampling by livestock and deer, human foot traffic, logging, maintenance of highways and powerlines, misapplication of pesticides, quarrying and road building. Other threats include, and some populations are threatened by collection.
What is being done to prevent extinction of the northern monkshood?
• Recovery plan - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed a recovery plan in 1983 that describes actions needed to help the plant survive and recover.
• Research - Many northern monkshood populations are being monitored to determine long-term population trends. Genetic studies are being conducted so population differences can be better understood.
• Habitat protection - A variety of government and private conservation agencies are all working to preserve the northern monkshood and its habitat. Voluntary protection agreements have also been made with some private landowners.
Northern monkshood is typically found on shaded to partially shaded cliffs, algific talus slopes, or on cool, streamside sites. These areas have cool soil conditions, cold air drainage or cold groundwater flowage. On algific talus slopes, these conditions are caused by the outflow of cool air and water from ice contained in underground fissures. These fissures are connected to sinkholes and are a conduit for the air flows.
Northern wild monkshood flowers are about 1 inch in length, and a single stem may have many flowers. Stems range from about 1 to 4 feet in length. The leaves are broad with coarse, toothed lobes.
Northern monkshood is noted for its very distinctive, blue hood-shaped flowers.
Northern monkshood is a perennial and reproduces from both seed and small tubers. The flowers bloom between June and September, depending on location within the range, and are pollinated when bumblebees pry open the blossom to collect nectar and pollen.
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