Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Crimson Columbine, the Native Wildflower of Western North America

Aquilegia formosa, sometimes called Crimson Columbine, Western Columbine or (ambiguously) "Red Columbine", is a common and attractive wildflower native to western North America, from Alaska to Baja California, and eastward to Montana and Wyoming. It is very often known as the "Red Columbine", but because this name is also used for a number of other members of the genus Aquilegia, it is not recommended.

Within its range, the Crimson Columbine can be found in most kinds of habitat (chaparral, oak woodland, mixed-evergreen or coniferous forest). It is not found on desert floors, nor at altitudes above 3300 metres, and it is absent from the Central Valley of California. It prefers moist locations such as stream banks.

The plant grows to 20-80 cm in height, averaging around 60 cm. Flowers, which can be seen from April to August (with some variation between regions), are about 5 cm long and red and yellow in color. Technically, the red or orange spreading outer parts of the flower are sepals, and the yellow inner parts are the true petals. The petals bear spurs that attract the plant's pollinators, the sphinx moths.

The flowers are edible, with a sweet taste—though the seeds can be fatal if eaten, and most parts of the plant contain cyanogenic glycosides.

Some Plateau Indian tribes used this columbine to concoct a perfume.


See also: Online Florist, Flower Shop, Flowers Delivery

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