Aquilegia Formosa, or Red Columbine, is a member of the Ranunculaceae family and a perennial herb. The word columbine is derived from the Latin columbina for ‘dove like’ in reference to the calyx spurs resembling doves aligned in a ring. This picture was taken on the Wildflower Loop in Peavy Arboretum just north of Corvallis, OR in early June. The trail winds through a moist, open wooded area with much shade.
Red Columbine blooms from May to August dependent on the latitude. The flowers are red and yellow, with the sepals forming long spurs that have glandular bulbs on them, and yellow petals inside measuring 3 to 4 cm across. The flowers nod well above the leaves from an erect stem between 50 and 70 cm long and have a central protruding column of styles and stamens. Leaves are mainly basal, hairless and can be fern-like in appearance. Typical of the Ranunculaceae family, the leaves are deeply dissected. Soon after the plant blooms, the leaves wither. The fruit of the red columbine is a black follicle that dry and open at maturity between June and August.
Red Columbine is typically found in open forests and along roads of moist areas but can also be found in a number of other ecological niches. The plant tends to prefer moist woods and streamsides at elevations between 900 and 3100 m. The occurrence of the plant is distributed across North America.
The bright red of the flower is an attractant for hummingbirds and butterflies. The nectar located in the glands on the calyx spurs are reserves to exchange with the hummingbirds for pollination.
Historically, indigenous North Americans used several parts of the plant to treat diarrhea, dizziness, aching joints and venereal disease.
Rose, R., C.E.C. Chachulski and D.L. Haase (1998) Propagation of Pacific Northwest Native Plants. OSU Press, Corvallis, OR.
E.N. Kozloff (1976) Plants and Animals of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press, Seattle and London.
Pojar, J. and A. McKinnon (1994) Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Lone Pine Publishing, Washington, Canada.