Aquilegia Express: Blue Columbines

Aquilegia brevistyla, small flower columbine

The small flower columbine is our northernmost occurring columbine found from Alaska to Ontario, Canada, with disjunct relict populations south of its main range in Montana, Wyoming, and the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Aquilegia brevistyla
Aquilegia brevistyla is relict species occurring as a very southern disjunct population on the Black Hills National Forest. Photo by Reed Crook.

Map of the range of Aquilegia brevistyla in North America.
Range map of Aquilegia brevistyla. Courtesy of Flora of North America.

Aquilegia brevistyla ranges in height from 20 to 80 cm. The foliage is green without a glaucous coating and the leaves are glabrous above and glabrous or pubescent (hairy) below. The flowers are nodding. The sepals are blue, 12 to 20 mm long and spreading to perpendicular. The blades are white to pale yellow, 7 to 10mm long. The spurs are hooked, blue and 5 to 8 mm long, much shorter than the blades making the small flower columbine more closely related to Eurasian columbines.

Aquilegia brevistyla is found growing on moist rock outcrops, meadows and open woods. The disjunct population in the Black Hills of South Dakota occurs on cool north-facing slopes.

Aquilegia brevistyla plant
Aquilegia brevistyla occurs on cool north-facing forested slopes. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

Aquilegia brevistyla habitat
The surrounding habitat for Aquilegia brevistyla. Its continued existence is dependent on microclimate, which is more similar to its northern occurrences. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

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