South Dakota Native Plant Research
Ranunculaceae : Aquilegia canadensis

Ranunculaceae : Aquilegia canadensis


Download Mature plant in Sica Hollow (592 KB)

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Download Seedlings (392 KB)

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Family Name


Common Name

Wild Columbine


Aquilegia canadensis is a perennial herb growing 30 to 100 cm tall from a stout caudex. The stems are hollow, smooth to covered with small glandular hairs towards the tops. Stems come from clusters of ternate basal leave and have alternate biternate (occasionally triternate) leaves on the flowering stems. The individual lobes are wedge-shaped and shallowly to deeply lobed. The showy flowers are nodding, regular, 2-5 cm long from tips of the stamens to the ends of the spurs and 1.7-4.3 cm wide. Five rose to dull red colored sepals, 0.9-2 cm long alternate with 5 petals, that are red toward the base and yellowish on the upper parts. The base is formed into a narrow spur that is slightly enlarged at the tip and measure 2-3.6 cm long from the end of the spur to the opening at the upper end. The stamens are numerous and exerted from the corolla. There are 5 carpels that mature into 5 follicles, 1.2-3 cm long with a styler beak that is 0.9-1.8 cm in length and contain several small black seeds. Flowers bloom from April to June. The plants grow in moist soils in wooded areas in several eastern and western counties in South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Columbine is a shade-loving perennial with attractive foliage and blooms. The leaves can remain green year-round in protected areas. The plants attract hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and hawk moths because of the nectaries found in the base of each spur. The seeds are also consumed by finches and buntings. Although perennial, these plants also reseed each year allowing them to persist indefinitely.

Horticulture Notes

Seed Collection: Collect the seeds in early summer when the follicles begin to open and the seeds are dark brown to black.

Germination: The seeds need to be stratified for 60 days in moist soil in a refrigerator or planted out in the fall.

Soils: Well drained moist sandy loam to loamy soils allow the plants to produce a substantial bloom.

Light: Full shade to partial shade.

Notes: Protection from full sun and extreme temperatures will keep the leaves green year-round.

Ranunculaceae : Aquilegia canadensis