Family: Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family)
Scientific Name: Aquilegia canadensis
Native and hardy early spring perennial which favors a variety of habitats including dry or even low woodlands, meadows, roadsides, peat bogs and bluffs
Watch for: Red and yellow downward facing flowers which have a tubular shape. Inside petals are yellow and outward sepals are red. Compound leaves are divided into 3 leaflets, each with a mitten-like shape.
Other names: Red columbine, American columbine, jack-in-trousers
History: Aquila, which means eagle in Latin, was given as the scientific name of this plant because the flower was believed to look like an eagle’s claw. Seeds from the wild columbine can be used to treat illnesses such as headaches, sore throats, stomach pains, heart problems, fever, or skin rashes caused by poison ivy. They have also been used as an additive to tobacco and as perfumes. Wild columbine roots can be used to treat stomach or intestinal ailments.
Tidbits: Wild columbine is listed as endangered in only one state, Florida. It thrives in 36 other states, due partly to the fact that it regenerates very easily by seed. The flower is pollinated by hummingbirds and bees in the northern part of its range and won’t be bothered by livestock as it’s unpalatable to them, although deer will occasionally browse on it.
Gardens/ Cultivation: Wild columbine is a popular garden perennial due to its hardiness and unique flower. It survives in sun or shade and prefers soils that are drained and loose. Wild columbine will not bloom in its first growing season and has a number of cultivars.
Black, Merel and Emmet Judziewicz. 2008. Wildflowers of Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest. Cornerstone Press. University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Press.
USDA Plants Database: http://plants.usda.gov