Description from Flora of China
Chienia W. T. Wang.
Herbs perennial, rarely biennial or annual. Stem(s) erect or ascending, or much reduced. Leaves basal and/or cauline; leaf blade palmately divided. Inflorescence racemose or corymbose, sometimes only 1-flowered. Pedicels usually 2-bracteolate. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic. Sepals 5, petaloid and variously colored, upper one spurred. Petals 2, sessile, free, spurred; spur nectariferous. Staminodes 2, each usually with a slender claw and an expanded limb. Stamens numerous; filaments lanceolate-linear, 1-veined; anthers ellipsoid. Carpels 3(or 4--10); ovaries many ovulate. Styles without a distinct stigma. Follicles narrowly oblong, reticulate. Seeds obpyramidal, tetrahedral, or obovoid, narrowly winged along angles, transversely rugose, squamulose winged, lamellate, or concave reticulate.
In order to reduce the length of the species descriptions and keep them as parallel as possible, section descriptions are included in the treatment. Delphinium is represented in China by an extraordinary number of taxa, many of these with very narrow geographic distributions. The present senior author (Wang) is the primary architect of this treatment of the genus for China, and the circumscription of the species represents his concept of the species boundaries. While the junior author (Warnock) would be more comfortable consolidating some of the species, he does not have the detailed familiarity with the entire range of variation among the Chinese Delphinium species to accomplish a major revision successfully. In addition, it seems clear that hybridization is a significant complicating factor in the taxonomy of Chinese Delphinium. During a brief field trip by the junior author to China, hybrids were seen between D. bulleyanum and D. delavayi, D. ceratophorum and D. grandiflorum, and D. coleopodum and D. delavayi . It is likely that searching would reveal additional hybrids. In fact, it is possible that some of the taxa recognized in the present account are actually hybrids.
About 350 species: N hemisphere, also a few species in equatorial Africa; 173 species (150 endemic) in China.
(Authors: Wang Wencai; Michael J. Warnock)