Aquilegia canadensis (Red Columbine)

Plant Info
Also known as: Wild Columbine
Family:Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade, sun; rocky woods and slopes, cliffs, bluffs
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: bell

[photo of flower] Open, branching cluster of hanging, bell-shaped flowers at the top of the plant. The upside-down flowers have 5 yellow petals each rolled into a column and forming a long, red, hollow spur at the top. 5 flaring, red, petal-like sepals alternate with the spurs. A bundle of long, yellow stamens hangs down from the bottom of the bell. Flower is 1 to 2 inches long from the tip of the spur to the tip of the stamens.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Leaves are compound in groups of 3, basal and alternating up the slender stem. Leaflets are up to 2½ inches long and wide, notched and/or lobed in 2 or 3 segments, on short stalks, the lobes and notches rounded at the tip. Leaves in the flower clusters are reduced to bracts, stalkless or nearly so, and may be more elliptic without lobes or notches. The stem may be slightly hairy, especially on the upper part of the plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of pod] 5 to 7 erect, green capsules, each ½ to 1 inch long with the remains of the spur forming a “tail” at the top. The capsules split open at the side to release many shiny, round seeds.


This is a great plant, gorgeous color in spring and early summer and popular with pollinators as well. It does very well in a home garden, preferring shadier sites but does tolerate sun. In restoration areas where overgrown, wooded areas had been cleared, it is not surprising to see Columbine persisting in open prairie when other shade-tolerant species disappear. While the flowers are easily recognizable, the leaves resemble those of some related species, in particular Early Meadow Rue (Thalictrum dioicum), which has leaflets less than 1 inch long that are compound in 3s or 5s and longer stalked.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka in Chisago and Ramsey. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Betty M
on: 2009-06-14 19:38:56

I have quite a few of these growing wild around my house in Scandia. Some volunteer right in the middle of a rocky path. Is there a trick for successful transplanting?

Posted by: Pam - Stanchfield
on: 2010-05-05 02:45:45

First buds arrived 5/1 along wooded trail leading to lake.

Posted by: Meredith - Shoreview
on: 2010-05-06 17:00:29

I have a few of these in my yard but none are blooming. Down around the marsh behind my house there is a small area where I have found at least 15 that are blooming and many more that are not. They are beautiful.

Posted by: Nature Girls - Minnetonka
on: 2010-05-14 21:08:09

We took a walk on a park trail 5/14/10 and saw some Columbine. My sisters and I are obsessed with nature, so seeing this was like a dream come true! We took lots of pictures and then went home to identify it. It turns out, I had done a report about MN wildflowers so I knew all about them. They are SO beautiful!

Posted by: mike - camden state park lynd mn
on: 2010-05-24 15:22:01

tons of these blooming right now!

Posted by: Toya - Bemidji State Park
on: 2010-06-27 17:56:40

I saw some blooming along a bike path near Big Bog Lake.

Posted by: Robin - Northwood Park, New Hope, MN.
on: 2011-05-13 16:54:01

Spotted a bloom begin to open today in the wooded area near the creek.

Posted by: Denise - Oakdale
on: 2011-05-25 18:55:16

Found some beautiful blooms in a wooded area near a golf course.

Posted by: Rick - Remer, MN
on: 2011-05-27 20:43:44

These are starting to open...the hummingbirds are standing in line.

Posted by: Dennis - Zumbro Falls Woods SNA
on: 2011-05-31 16:18:17

Blooming on the river banks.

Posted by: James - Lake Benton
on: 2011-06-11 15:32:06

These are abundant in the woods behind the barn just up from the creekbed.

Posted by: Linda - Dakota County
on: 2011-07-15 13:43:16

Lots of this in the woods in Kaposia Park and Simon's Ravine Park in South St Paul. It was also very common in northern Minnesota (Voyager's National Forest, Chippewa National Forest, BWCAW) where I grew up.

Posted by: Elizabeth - Andover
on: 2011-07-25 00:42:05

We spent time as children at a family cabin on Elk Lake, and these grew freely in the light woods. We loved to eat the flowers because of the sweet nectar. But we learned to be careful of the bees - they liked it too!

Posted by: Kim - St. Louis Park (Hennepin County)
on: 2012-04-09 08:21:06

I suddenly have these flowers growing on our patio and garden. Not sure what has caused them to make an appearance now (we have lived here for 5 years) but I was curious when I first saw the interesting leaves growing. I decided to wait to see what became of the plant and was pleasantly surprised to see these flowers bloom.

Posted by: Laura - Cambridge
on: 2012-05-11 15:16:49

Found a columbine while on a walk through the woods on our land. Didn't know what it was until I came to this site and was able to identify it. What an amazing-looking little flower. Praise God for His beautiful creation!

Posted by: James - Fort Snelling State Park
on: 2012-05-16 19:40:44

Found plenty blooming right along the path. Very beutiful flowers.

Posted by: Kathy - northern Itasca county
on: 2012-06-04 19:24:42

We have lots of them here. They are indeed very beautiful.

Posted by: Cecile - North Shore near Lutsen
on: 2012-07-22 17:14:41

We hiked the Caribou River trail and Temperance State Park last week and they were in bloom. Beautiful flowers.

Posted by: Paul - Ottawa Bluffs, a few miles east of St. Peter
on: 2014-05-26 22:14:44

Saw about a dozen of these in bloom on May 26.

Posted by: Jenn - Minnetonka, unkempt backyard
on: 2014-05-29 21:00:57

We just noticed two plants in our yard. It's a relief to see something native blooming among the creeping charlie, dandelions, honeysuckle, lilac, and plantain!

Posted by: Peter - Minneapolis
on: 2016-05-26 12:38:40

Have beautiful white in my side garden and neighbors' Had to look it up to verify what it was.

Posted by: Leah - West Medicine Lake Park, Plymouth
on: 2016-07-04 21:40:50

I was very surprised to find just a couple of these growing next to the trail. I didn't know they were native and had assumed they got transplanted by birds or something from someone's garden. Nice to know they are native!

Posted by: Will - Rochester
on: 2017-04-08 02:22:02

We have a single plant that comes back every year with no assistance! The flowers are the neatest creation I have ever seen. I collected seeds last year and have a couple of new gardens for them to move to this year. Should see them breaking through very soon.

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