FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Aquilegia canadensis is a lovely wildflower with delicate ferny foliage. In spring, slender flower stalks emerge bearing elegant red and yellow flowers. The blooms are nodding and have long spurs. Plants are a lot tougher than they look. All they really need is a partly sunny or shaded site with average or dry garden soil.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Native to Canada and all states east of the Rockies except for Louisiana. The range extends from Nova Scotia south to the Florida panhandle and west to Texas.
Plants occur in rocky rich woods, on cliffs, on wooded bluffs above creeks, road cuts and in dry woods. Sites are usually steep, rocky and moist but Wild Columbine will adapt to sunny disturbed sites as long as climate is not excessively hot.
Hardy from USDA Zones 3-8.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Aquilegia canadensis is an upright branching perennial with compound round-lobed leaves. Foliage is airy, deep green and very attractive. A green winter rosette is present except in extremely cold climates.
Pendant flowers are held above the foliage in late spring and early summer. The flowers are comprised of 5 tubular red and yellow petals and 5 flat red sepals. The petal spurs point up and contain nectar that is only accessible to long tongued pollinators like hawk moths and hummingbirds.
Plants usually attain a height of 3-4’ and a spread of 1’.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Aquilegia canadensis grows best in partial shade but also adapts to sun and shade.
Plants need a well drained soil and are tolerant of drought and alkaline soil.
This species is more resistant to leaf miner pest damage than many hybridized columbines. Plants are usually not palatable to deer.
Be on the lookout for seedling volunteers because this columbine usually self sows
LANDSCAPE USES: Plants are perfect candidates for the Shade Garden or Wildlife Garden. Aquilegia canadensis is also used as an Accent, Butterfly Nectar Plant, Butterfly Host Plant, Groundcover, Grouping or Mass Planting. It provides Showy Blooms and is a valuable component of Cottage Gardens, Deer Resistant Plantings, Rock Gardens, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings, Perennial Borders and Meadows.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try planting this with spring blooming wildflowers like Phlox divaricata, Iris cristata, Spigelia marilandica, Tiarella cordifolia and Heuchera Americana ‘Dales Strain’.
Carex pennsylvanica, Asaram canadense, Osmunda cinnamomea, Athyrium filix-femina and Polystichum acrostichoides are nice foliage companions.
Aquilegia canadensis cultivars like ‘Corbett’ or ‘Little Lanterns’ can be substituted for this plant. Bear in mind that these 2 are smaller plants with height around 1 foot.
TRIVIA: The floral spurs are narrowed just below the nectar containing tip. This prevents small bees or short tongues insects from sipping the nectar. Hawk Moths and Ruby Throated Hummingbirds have no problems because their long tongues are adapted perfectly for the task.
The genus name Aquilegia comes from the Latin word for eagle (aquila), because the shape of the petal spurs is said to resemble an eagle’s talon.
Host to the Columbine Duskywing Caterpillar.
Like many other members of the Buttercup Family, Wild Columbine has unexpectedly colored sepals. In this case they are red instead of the usual green.
For more information on this plant, visit the USDA PLANTS Database: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=AQCA