Red Columbine - Aquilegia formosa


Aquilegia formosa "is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.8 m (2ft 7in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3. It is in flower from May to August, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees."[PFAF]
Suitable for: "light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil."[PFAF]

Status: Native [E-flora]


General: "Perennial herb from a taprooted, usually branched, woody stem-base; stems erect, 15-100 cm tall, smooth below, sparsely hairy and smooth above especially in inflorescence." [IFBC-E-flora]
Sparsely hairy and somewhat glandular above the inflorescence. [PCBC]
Leaves: "Basal leaves 10-40 cm long (including long stalks), much shorter than stems, twice 3-parted, the first set of 3 stalks 16-95 mm long (the leaflets not crowded), smooth or long soft-hairy, each leaflet 14-68 mm long, 2- to 3-times shallowly to deeply lobed, thin, usually hairy and with a bloom beneath, not glandular; stem leaves few, shorter-stalked." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Mainly basil, twice divided in 3s; blades hairless to hairy, green above, paler and glaucous beneath." [PCBC]
Flowers: "Inflorescence of several nodding to hanging flowers in a terminal cyme, the flowers 3-5 cm wide; bracts leaf-like but greatly reduced, unstalked; petals 5, distinct, the spurs red, knobbed, 13-21 mm long, stout, abruptly narrowed near middle, with straight tips, not curved in, the blades yellow, oblong, sometimes absent, to 6 mm long, 4-6 mm wide; sepals 5, pale to deep red, widely spreading, elliptic to lance-shaped, 10-26 mm long, 4-9 mm wide, tips pointed to sharp-pointed; stamens 12-17 mm long." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Red and Yellow with 5 long, straight, reddish spurs with bulbous, glandular tips; central tuft of stamens and styles protruding; usually 2-5 flowers, sometimes more numerous in vigourous plants, drooping." [PCBC]
Blooms: May - Aug. [TSFTK] July. [Jepson1] Summer.[Schofield]
Fruits: Follicles, 5, erect, egg-shaped, 15-25 (29) mm long, hairy; beaks 9-12 mm long; seeds black, egg-shaped, wrinkled and pebbled.[IFBC-E-flora]
Hairy, spreading tips and numerous seeds. [PCBC]

Habitat & Range
"Mesic to moist meadows, rocky slopes, thickets, clearings, roadsides and open forests in all zones except the alpine; Widely distributed in many habitats from the coast to the coastal mountains[60]. Moist woods and damp places in scrub and on banks from sea-level to 3000 metres[187]." [PFAF]
Range: "common throughout BC; N to SW AK and S YT, E to SW AB and S to UT and CA." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Western N. America - Alaska to California, east to W. Montana and Utah." [PFAF]

Ecology: Variety of moist, open to partly shaded sites; meadows, rocky slopes and beaches, forest glades, clearings, roadsides; common from the lowlands to timberline. [PCBC]
USDA Flower Colour: Red
USDA Blooming Period: Spring
USDA Fruit/Seed characteristics:

Colour: Brown
Present from Summer to Fall [USDA-E-flora]

Ecological Indicator
"A shade-tolerant/intolerant, montane to subalpine, Western North American forb disĀ­tributed equally in the Pacific and Cordilleran regions. Occurs on fresh to very moist, nitrogen-rich soils within subalpine boreal, temperate, and cool mesothermal climates; its occurrence decreases with increasing elevation. Scattered in broad-leaved forests on flooded sites, often inhabits exposed mineral soils in early-seral communities on water-receiving sites. A nitrophytic species characteristic of Moder and Mull humus forms." [IPBC-E-flora]


Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

"Western columbine was quite frequently employed by a number of native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints[257]. It is little used in modern herbalism." [PFAF]
"Aboriginals in other parts of North America used various parts in medicinal preparations for diarrhea, dizziness, aching joints and possibly venereal disease." [PCBC]

Folk Use

"This plant is called 'red rain-flowers' in Haida. Haida children were warned not to pick the flowers or it would rain." [PCBC]



  • AQUILEGNINE Seed: [DukePhyt]
  • CAPRIC-ACID Seed: [DukePhyt]
  • CAPRONIC-ACID Seed: [DukePhyt]
  • CAPRYLIC-ACID Seed: [DukePhyt]
  • FAT Seed 269,000 ppm; [DukePhyt]
  • HCN Plant: [DukePhyt]
  • LAURIC-ACID Seed: [DukePhyt]
  • LINOLEIC-ACID Seed 64,560 ppm; [DukePhyt]
  • LIPASE Seed: [DukePhyt]
  • MAGNOFLORINE Root: [DukePhyt]
  • MYRISTIC-ACID Seed: [DukePhyt]
  • NITRILE-GLYCOSIDE Seed: [DukePhyt]
  • OLEIC-ACID Seed 16,140 ppm; [DukePhyt]
  • PALMITIC-ACID Seed 21,520 ppm; [DukePhyt]
  • PALMITOLEIC-ACID Seed: [DukePhyt]
  • PROTEIN Seed 206,000 ppm; [DukePhyt]
  • STEARIC-ACID Seed 5,100 ppm; [DukePhyt]
  • TRANS-5,CIS-9,CIS-12-OCTDECATRIENOIC-ACID Seed 161,000 ppm; [DukePhyt]


Columbines are often added to rock gardens and flower beds of perennials. Propagate by division or seeds, and plant in light, sandy soil. [Schofield]

"Succeeds in ordinary garden soil, preferring a moist but not wet soil and a sheltered sunny position[1] or partial shade[187]. Intolerant of heavy clay[200]. A very ornamental plant, it is hardy to about -15oc[187]. A short-lived species, often dying out after 2 - 3 years, though it usually produces seed prolifically[200, 233]. However, they are very apt to hybridize with other members of the genus and so it becomes difficult to keep a species true to type if more than one is grown in the garden[200]. This species is closely related to A. canadensis[200] and A. flavescens[60], often hybridizing with A. flavescens in the wild where their ranges overlap[270]. Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[233]. A greedy plant, inhibiting the growth of nearby plants, especially legumes[54]." [PFAF]


"Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. The seed can be slow to germinate[200]. Stored seed can be sown in late winter in a cold frame. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer. Division in spring[200]." [PFAF]



Page last modified on Friday, January 11, 2019 9:25 PM