Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is a beautiful flower in the Ranunculus Family with all sorts of folklore. It has several common names: American Columbine, Red Columbine, Eastern Red Columbine, Canadian Columbine, Eastern Columbine, Rock Bells, Rock Lily, Cluckies, Bells, Honeysuckle, Jack-in-Trousers, Granny's Nightcap, Alaly, Meeting Houses, Turk's Cap, and Culverwort. Lots of folklore is tied in with their common and scientific names. For instance, Culverwort, comes from the Saxon culfre meaning "pigeon" and wyrt meaning "herb". As far as their most common name, Columbine is derived from the Latin for "dove" due to the resemblance of the inverted flower to five doves clustered all together. This is also why another name of Meeting Houses is also used. Aquilegia the Genus name also has a meaning. It comes from the Latin word for "eagle" because the flower's spurs are said to resemble an eagle's talons. The species name canadensis is due to its home range. The reference to "eagles", as well as its presence in many coats of arms, even won it favor to a small but vocal committee that wanted Wild Columbine to serve as the national flower. They failed in this attempt, though one species, Aquilegia caerulea, was chosen as the state flower for Colorado.
|The columbine's flowers spurs resemble eagle talons.
|The red tubular flowers are very attractive to hummingbirds.
The flowers of our local Eastern Columbine are red and tubular. They are designed to attract and be pollinated by the long tongues of hummingbirds who prefer and can see the color red, that many insects don't see. But some bees and other insects learn to cheat and eat a hole at the end of the spur to get to the nectar, bypassing any pollination. Our Eastern Red Columbines is a host plant to 12 different caterpillars.
|In the wild, Wild Columbine is often found growing out of rocks or other niches where there's little competition from other plants.
|Wild columbine growing out of the cinder blocks that line my drive way.