Plant A Day – Red Columbine

Red Columbine Aquilegia canadensis

Red Columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

Wow!  Who knew that Columbines were so interesting!!  Sure, they’re pretty plants, but someone has done a tremendous amount of research on the genus Aquilegia and found out a lot of interesting stuff.  Go here to check it out.

DNA analysis shows that Columbines came across the Bering Strait land bridge 10,000 to 40,000 years ago.  When the glacial period ended, the land bridge was no longer there and the Columbines evolved into over twenty species.  The cause of evolution was basically pollinators – hawk moths, hummingbirds, bees, etc.  Only one of the species is found east of the Mississippi, the Red Columbine.  It’s range so happens to match the range of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

All of the other species are found in the west, with one species found in northern U.S., Canada and Alaska.  There are several species that are found in only a few counties in the western U.S.  Go here and then click on the SUBORDINATE TAXA tab to take a look.

The other species of Columbine found in Indiana, European Columbine, is a garden plant from Europe. The Red Columbine stamens stick out noticeably past the petals.

The European (Garden) Columbine comes in many colors and can be quite variable in shape, but the stamens are only slightly longer than the petals, if longer at all.


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