Aquilegia is a genus of about 70 species of perennials in the family Ranunculaceae, native to North America.
Columbine plants have small rounded leaves, and 5 petals and 5 sepals with spurs extending from the base. Their delicate and often multi-colored flowers grow on tall, slender stalks and attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.
The genus name Aquilegia was derived from the Latin word “aquila”, which means “eagle”, and refers to the five spurs at the back of the flower that resemble the claws of an eagle.
The common name Columbine comes from the Latin word “columba”, meaning “dove”, because it resembles five doves nestled together.
Columbine symbolizes wisdom, strength and happiness.
In Christianity, it represents the seven gifts of the holy spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.
Interesting facts about Aquilegia
Columbines and Their Pollinators
Columbines have developed ways to make themselves attractive to their primary pollinator.
The flowers have extra-long, backward-extending spurs. The evolution of the length of nectar spurs allows flowers to match the tongue lengths of the pollinators that drink their nectar. Evolutionary speaking, plants with the longest spurs would be best served by the pollinators with the longest tongues.
The History of Columbines in the United States
Columbine crossed into North America from Asia over the Bering land bridge that connected the continents of Asia and North America during the Pleistocene period (10,000 to 40,000 years ago).
Today, Columbine is a plant that has deep cultural significance in some parts of the United States. Aquilegia caerulea, also known as Colorado Blue Columbine, is the official state flower of Colorado. It was adopted as the official state flower in 1899 by the General Assembly. Furthermore, Columbine is the name of the city in Colorado which is situated immediately south of Denver.
Is Columbine Poisonous?
There are reports that Columbine is toxic to humans and animals, though the level of toxicity is disputed. All parts of the plant are toxic, with the highest concentration of the poison in the roots and the seeds.
Benefits and Uses
Native Americans used this plant as a remedy for a variety of health problems, ranging from heart problems to fever, and today it is known that it helps to relieve headaches, stomach pains and menstrual pains. Columbine also helps to treat acne, wounds, menstrual bleeding, psoriasis, eczema and respiratory problems. It is used to detoxify the body and to relieve pressure on the kidneys and liver.
The flowers and leaves are edible to humans and animals. The flowers are used as a tea substitute and to add flavor to salads.
However, not all species are edible so be careful before tasting or even touching!
Aquilegia Plant Data
The flowers are yellow, white, blue, red, pink, purple or a combination of these shades.
Columbine can grow up to 60 cm (2 ft) tall.
The plant grows best in moist and well drained soil, with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. (slightly acidic to neutral). Columbine grows well in just about any type of habitat, from dry deserts to mountains.