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Aquilegia formosa (Western columbine)
Anderson, Wynn

Aquilegia formosa

Aquilegia formosa Fisch. ex DC.

Western Columbine, Crimson Columbine, Scarlet Columbine, Red Columbine

Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Synonym(s): Aquilegia formosa var. communis, Aquilegia formosa var. fosteri, Aquilegia formosa var. hypolasia, Aquilegia formosa var. megalantha, Aquilegia formosa var. pauciflora, Aquilegia formosa var. truncata, Aquilegia formosa var. wawawensis, Aquilegia fosteri, Aquilegia mohavensis, Aquilegia shockleyi

USDA Symbol: aqfo

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N)

An open-branched, 2-3 ft. perennial with delicate, blue-green, lobed foliage and pendent, yellow and red, spurred flowers. Handsome red and yellow flowers hang at ends of branches above this bushy plant with several stems and many divided leaves. The flowers of this species are slightly smaller than those of A. eximia.

The genus name Aquilegia comes from the Latin aquila which means eagle and refers to the spurred petals that many believe resemble an eagle's talons. The species name formosa, Latin for "beautiful," aptly describes this large plant, especially when it has hundreds of lovely flowers nodding over it. There are other species with mostly red flowers, which also attract hummingbirds as pollinators. The nectar was eaten as a candy by the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en peoples.


From the Image Gallery

19 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Follicle
Size Notes: Up to about 3 feet tall.
Leaf: Green.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug


USA: AK , CA , ID , MT , NV , OR , UT , WA , WY
Canada: AB , BC , YT
Native Distribution: N. Baja CA to UT, n. to s. AK & w. Alt.
Native Habitat: Moist, open woods, banks & seeps; 4000-9000 ft.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Moist, rocky soils, but will grow in dry, nutrient poor soil.
Conditions Comments: This columbine readily maintains itself from seed.


Use Wildlife: Columbine attracts hummingbirds.
Use Food: The nectar was eaten as a candy by the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en peoples. The young leaves of variety truncata were gathered before flowering, boiled, and eaten as greens by indigenous peoples of California.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Hummingbirds


Description: Easily propagated by seed. Seedlings around parent plant appear in summer and can be moved the following spring.
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: Seeds require no pretreatment.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Alternative names for Aquilegia Sanguinaria
May 03, 2006
I am looking for the common name for a flower called Aquilegia Sanguinaria. Can you help? Does this even exist?
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Web Reference

Webref 62 - Burke Herbarium Image Collection (2020) University of Washington
Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Aquilegia formosa in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Aquilegia formosa in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Aquilegia formosa


Record Modified: 2023-05-04
Research By: TWC Staff

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