Friday, January 28, 2011

Native Plant of the Week: Wild Columbine ~ Aquilegia canadensis

Wild Columbine ~ Aquilegia canadensis
Other Common Names: Red Columbine, Canada Columbine, Rock Columbine

Wild Columbine was present in our yard the first spring we lived here. It had been relegated to the fence edge because the yard was mowed. Since converting the yard to native plantings, it has successfully seeded and moved inwards into the yard.

"This graceful flower enlivens us all through the months of May and June by its brilliant blossoms of deep red and golden yellow." (Studies of Plant Life in Canada, C. Traill, 1906)
The red and yellow flowers of Wild Columbine are an important source of nectar for hummingbirds migrating northwards in the spring. In our area in central Minnesota, it typically flowers in mid to late May, but last year was flowering as early as late April.

Wild Columbine flowers are 5 parted with interesting long hollow nectar spurs. The tops of the 5 sectioned seed capsules dry and open, and the shiny black seed is wind dispersed.

Wild Columbine foliage is similar to Early Meadow Rue, a softly lobed, 2-3 parted leaf arranged alternately on the flower stem.

Wild Columbine against our fence
Columbine is the larval host for the Columbine Duskywing (Erynnis lucilius), a type of Borer Moth (Papaipema leucostigma) and the Columbine Sawfly (Pristophora aquilegae). (Illinois Wildflowers Website)

Wild Columbine prefers dry to mesic soils and the edges of woodlands or in open rocky habitats.
It is native to eastern North America, from Saskatchewan south to Texas and eastwards. It is listed as endangered in Florida.