Aquilegia elegantula - Western Red Columbine

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Ranunculales - Family: Ranunculaceae

Aquilegia elegantula - Western Red Columbine

Above: Western Red Columbine flowering in the Rocky Mountains in early July.

This lovely columbine species is not as common as either of its close relatives, Colorado Blue Columbine - Aquilegia coerulea or Yellow Columbine - Aquilegia flavescens. It readily hybdrises with the latter producing pale pink or lemon-coloured flowers.

Western Red Columbine likes moist sites, and we found it growing at the base of a rocky slope in woodland beside a mountain stream. It also tolerates high altitudes and will appear in suitable subalpine habitats.

Aquilegia elegantula, closeup of flower

Columbines reward their pollinators with nectar, but the insects must have very long tongues to reach down to the end of the long spurs where it is stored. Hummingbirds are particularly fond of columbine flowers and so growing cultivated varieties in your garden is a sure way of attracting them.

Aqulegia elegantula is a protected plant and so the flowers should never be picked or the plants dug up and removed. Columbines are very easy to cultivate from seed for use in gardens, and seeds can be purchased from reputable garden centres.


The genus name Aquilegia comes from the Latin noun Aquila, meaning eagle, in the belief that the shape of the petals are reminiscent of the wings of an eagle. As you might expect, the specific epithet elegantula means 'of elegant habit' - 'elegant', in other words!'.

The specimens shown on this page were photographed in Yellowstone National Park in early July.

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