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U.S. Forest Service

Aquilegia Express: Columbines

In late winter, many of us wait in great anticipation of the coming spring. With each new spring, a frenzied burst of wildflowers entices us out into nature for yet another beautiful year of Celebrating Wildflowers.

One of the most exquisite and most beloved wildflowers is the columbine. The magnificent rock-loving columbine brightens our hearts in cool, hidden forest grottos, and lifts our spirit high to alpine meadows and glacial mountain lakes.

Locomotive and train cars: All aboard for the Aquilegia Express!

All aboard! The Aquilegia Express is ready to leave the station! Join us as we explore columbine history, habitats, pollinators, and the many beautiful colors along the way. Final call!

Four columbines.

“Sweet columbine, sweet columbine
Beneath the aspen and the pine
You seem a gift from heav’n above”

~ From a lyric by Edgar MacMechen, 1922

All Aboard!

Map of the Bering land bridge

Natural History

Our journey begins with Aquilegia's ancestors as they cross the Bering land bridge

A black-chinned hummingbird pollinating a yellow columbine

The Birds and Bees

Pollinators play an important role in development and hybridization

Columbine flower parts

The Columbine Flower

Different shapes and colors are the result

A blue columbine: Aquilegia jonesii

Blue Columbines

Children of the “First Columbine”

A yellow columbine: Aquilegia flavescens

Yellow Columbines

Yellow, white, to pink and everything in between

A red columbine: Aquilegia eximia

Red Columbines

Red elfin flowers herald the coming of spring