WILD COLUMBINE, Aquilegia canadensis


Photo by Beth E. Schroeder

A member of the buttercup family, this is one of the most colorful blossoms of the early spring woods, blooming sometime from late April to mid-June on ledges and rocky outcrops. It is also called meeting houses, rock bells, or rock-or-rills. Columbine flowers are intriguingly shaped. The yellow petals form a bell, the red sepals form five long spurs extending above the drooping flower, somewhat like a jester’s cap, and the yellow stamens extend beyond the petals at the bottom. There are usually several blossoms on each plant, on stems reaching about two feet tall. Leaves are trifoliate, each leaflet having several rounded lobes, sometimes marked by the trails of a leaf miner, an insect which tunnels its way through the leaf after hatching. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are attracted to columbines’ red color. They are its most important pollinator, but moths and butterflies as well as bees may do some pollination as well. Its nectar is sought by many insects and some even take a shortcut by biting through the upper end of the spur. Later, dry tan fruits release tiny glossy black seeds.

More information

US Department of Agriculture

Connecticut Botanical Society