|Monday Melange: Columbine|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Monday, 26 March 2012|
Columbine (Aquilegia spp.) is a graceful perennial wildflower that has been domesticated for the garden but is still found in the wild, particularly in the western US, the Rocky Mountain blue columbine (A. saximontana) pictured above and in a meadow below is just one example. The beautiful wild red columbine (A. canadensis) is native to the entire eastern half of North America south to Florida. There are 23 species of columbines (Aquilegia spp.) in North America, all of which are native except the European columbine (A. vulgaris). Columbines are members of the Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) and are hardy between USDA zones 3 and 9.
Blooming in spring and early summer, the showy distinctive flowers of the columbine are somewhat bell-shaped, with five spurred petals that contain nectar enjoyed by several species of butterflies. They are also highly attractive to hummingbirds. Columbines have attractive foliage as well and tolerate dappled shade.
In the wild, columbine grows in meadows often at higher elevations and in woodlands. As such they do best in loamy, rich soils. They have a taproot and once established are drought tolerant and maintenance free. Columbines are easily propagated by seed and will bloom after several years. They can also be divided when dormant. Keep in mind that domesticate varieties are bred for specific colors and subsequent generations will not be true to color.
Read more about columbines in this fascinating article from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.