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Bransford, W.D. and Dolphia
Aquilegia caerulea James
Colorado blue columbine, Rocky Mountain columbine
Synonyms: Aquilegia coerulea
USDA Symbol: aqca2
USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.
The large, upright, blue and white flowers of this popular wildflower are long-spurred and rise above deeply cut, light-green foliage. This short-lived perennial grows 1-2 ft. tall.
Colorados state flower. Popular in cultivation, with several color phases and doubled flowers. Hybridization with other species has produced further cultivated variants. Phases in the wild with pale or white sepals are frequent. A species with blue sepals and white petal tips, but only 2-8 (5-20 cm) tall, is Alpine Blue Columbine (A. saximontana), whose blue spurs are hooked at the tip; it grows high in the Colorado mountains.
The genus name Aquilegia comes from the Latin aquila which means eagle and refers to the spurred petals that many believe resemble an eagles talons.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Herb Root Type: Tap Leaf:
Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Blue
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug
DistributionUSA: AZ , CO , ID , MT , NM , NV , SD , UT , WY
Native Distribution: Mts. of s.w. MT & c. ID to n. NM & AZ
Native Habitat: Moist woods; open, mountain meadows
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Moist, talus & rocky soils.
Conditions Comments: Rocky Mountain columbine can be susceptible to aphids when grown in open areas. Most columbine hybrids have this species as one parent. While an individual plant may live only 4-5 years, once established, the plant will self-seed. As one goes north or west from Colorado the blue color of this species becomes less pronounced, until finally the flowers are white or cream. Also, those flowers found naturally at higher altitudes tend to be more colorful than those at lower elevations.
for long-tongued insects and hummingbirds. Conspicuous Flowers:
Sow seeds outside in fall or divide mature plants in late summer or early fall. Seeds need light to germinate, so scratch only lightly into the soil. Seed Collection:
Seeds may ripen and be shed before the pod
has turned brown. If seeds in greenish follicles are black, they are ready to collect. Cut the fruiting stalk and keep in a dry bag for a few days until the seeds shake free. Seed Treatment:
Chilling in moist sand for 2 months will accelerate germination. Commercially Avail:
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Tohono Chul Park, Inc.
- Tucson, AZNative Seed Network
- Corvallis, OR
Recommended Species Lists
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Record Modified: 2010-09-08
Research By: TWC Staff