Aquilegia canadensis (Red Columbine)
|Also known as:||Wild Columbine|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade, sun; rocky woods and slopes, cliffs, bluffs|
|Bloom season:||May - July|
|Plant height:||1 to 3 feet|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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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:
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.
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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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Columbine in woodland habitat
- Columbine in open, rocky prairie
- Columbine on a rock face
- garden-grown Columbine
- underside of a flower
- early growth
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?