Aquilegia Express: Blue Columbines

Aquilegia coerulea, Colorado blue columbine

The Colorado blue columbine occurs in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, southeast Idaho, extreme southern Montana, Utah, northwest Nevada, and northern Arizona.

Aquilegia coerulea flower
Aquilegia coerulea exhibits a variety of colors, as displayed with this and the following images. This flower is the typical subalpine meadow blue and white of the Colorado Rockies. Photo by Steve Olson.

Map of the range of Aquilegia coerulea var. coerulea in North America.
Range map of Aquilegia coerulea var. coerulea. Also see range maps for var. alpina, var. ochroleuca, and var. pinetorum. Courtesy of Flora of North America.

Aquilegia coerulea ranges in height from 15 to 90 cm. The foliage is green not glaucous and the leaves are glabrous above and glabrous to pubescent below. The flowers are erect and white, cream, blue, and sometimes pinkish white. The sepals are blue, pale blue to white, 20 to 40 mm long and spreading to perpendicular. The blades are white rarely blue, 15 to 25 mm long. The spurs are blue, white, or whitish pink, 30 to 45 mm long and spreading. A variety of Colorado blue columbine is spurless.

Aquilegia coerulea flowers.
This is a completely dark blue, spurless flower. Photo by Steve Olson.

Aquilegia coerulea flowers.
These flowers are white with pinkish tinged spurs. Photo by Teresa Prendusi.

Aquilegia coerulea flowers.
These flowers are white with pinkish tinged spurs. Photo by G.A. Cooper, Smithsonian Institution.

Aquilegia coerulea flowers.
These flowers are all white! Aquilegia coerulea var. ochroleuca. Photo by Teresa Prendusi.

Aquilegia coerulea is found growing in subalpine meadows, open woods, and near streams in the mountains.

Springtime in the Rocky Mountains

Below are three photos of springtime in the Rocky Mountains, where the Colorado blue columbine is a definite standout in subalpine meadows.

Aquilegia coerulea habitat.
Aquilegia coerulea var. ochroleuca on the Wasatch Range in Utah. Photo by Teresa Prendusi.

Aquilegia coerulea habitat.
Colorado blue columbine. Photo by Teresa Prendusi.

Aquilegia coerulea habitat.
Colorado blue columbine. Photo by Steve Olson.

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