It's springtime in the Rocky Mountains...when the Colorado Columbine (Aquilegia caerules) makes its appearance in the sub-alpine meadows, open woodlands, and along streams. I LOVE this flower! There are dozens of different species found throughout the northern hemisphere, as they cross pollinate easily producing natural hybrids and interesting flower shapes that inspire the imagination. The word 'columbine' comes from the Latin word Columba, which means dove or bird of peace. Interestingly, the genus name is derived from the Latin word eagle (Aquila), because the shape of the spiky petals were said to resemble an eagles claw. Imagine, an eagle and a dove to describe this dandy little flower. There's another variety I like, called, "Granny's Bonnet" that's shaped like a prairie bonnet.
So lovely. Columbine is a fragrant perennial which propagates by seed, growing to a height of about 15 to 20 inches, and once established will stay put without interference, requiring very little maintenance. It prefers shade, but will grow in full sun in well drained soil, while tolerating dry spells and Zone 3 conditions. Colorful, nectar-rich flowers attract hummingbirds, provide food for butterflies and caterpillars, and at one time were consumed (in moderation) by the Native Americans as a sweet-tasting condiment. But the seeds and roots are highly poisonous to humans and most animals, which would contribute to its staying power.
The white and lavender “Rocky Mountain Columbine” was adopted as the official state flower on April 4, 1899 by an act of General Assembly after Colorado school children voted it as their favorite flower. To protect and preserve the choice, and possiblly sensing it's demise from over-zealous flower pickers, the General Assembly made it the duty of all citizens to watch over this rare species, passing a law in 1925, prohibiting the removal of the flower from any public land; picking no more than 25 blossoms and stems in one day, and only with the consent of the landowner. And so, it remains and survives today.
COLORS: petals--JP Coats variegated purple; center--light orange DMC #435; stems & leaves--dark green #470; medium green #3348; letters--gray #645.