Plant of the day: crimson columbine

Crimson columbine is a bizarre confection of a flower. With its bright red turrets and awnings, and a dangling bouquet of long yellow stamens, Aquilegia formosa is one of the most sculptural flowers around. It looks like it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright just to grow in the gardens of the Marin Civic Center – though it doesn’t, as far as I know. Believe it or not, this extravagant bloom is in the same family (Ranunculaceae) as the simple buttercup!

These columbine prefer moist spots and stream banks, where you can find their flaming blossoms high above an airy nest of deeply lobed leaves. In general, the plants grow one to three feet tall, and they are found in all the western states. I saw the beauties photographed here on the Concrete Pipe Trail on the Marin Municipal Water District lands. This is an unpaved access road with a steep bank running along one side for much of its length, and it’s a great spot for seeing a diverse collection of spring flowers.


Filed under Good for gardens, Native, Plant of the day

2 responses to “Plant of the day: crimson columbine

  1. Michael Mello

    A few years ago, while driving through western Marin and Sonoma, my wildflower-loving friend and I drove along a stretch of road with a bank on the northwestern side of the which was covered with Aquilegia Formosa for at least several hundred yards. I have been unable to find this stretch of road again. Might you have an idea what road this is? Thank you!

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