A native of meadows in the Swiss Alps, this short lived perennial is a member of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, and closely related to baneberry (Actaea spp.) and monkshood/wolfsbane (Aconitum spp.). It has gray-green biternate leaves with leaflets deeply divided into linear lobes. Two to three nodding blue flowers sometimes with a white petal tube are produced from spring into summer in terminal racemes. Each flowers is 2-3” wide and has flared sepals and hooked spurs ¾-1 inch long that contain nectar attractive to hummingbirds and other birds with long beaks. The genus name, Aquilegia, comes from the Latin word aquila meaning eagle and perhaps refers to the resemblance of the spurs to the talons of an eagle. The specific epithet comes from the Latin word alpinus meaning from high mountains. The common name columbine comes from the Latin word columba meaning dove.
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Bloom: Two to three nodding blue flowers sometimes with a white petal tube from spring into summer in terminal racemes; each flowers 2-3 wide, has flared sepals and hooked spurs ¾-1 inch long
Size: 1-3’ H x 2’ W
Light: light to part shade
Soil: Rich, moist, well-drained
Hardiness: Zones 3-8
Care: Trim off leaves that are damaged by leaf minors.
Pests and Diseases: Leaf minors, caterpillars, rust, leaf spot, powdery mildew
Propagation: Fresh seed, old seed with cold treatment; division in spring is possible but plants are slow to recover.
Companion Plants: Iris, peony, roses, ornamental onion, oriental poppies, Geranium sylvaticum, daffodils, trollius.
var. alba (white flowers)
var. superba (larger than the species)
Photo: Ghislain118 (AD) http://www.fleurs-des-montagnes.net