Location: Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada
If I had to pick a favorite wildflower, it would be Columbine, but if I had to narrow it to only one species of Columbine, deciding which one among the 50 or so that exist in the world would be impossible. They are all so beautiful! I came across this variety a number of times during the backpacking trip near Banff, Alberta that I’ve written about several times now.
Columbine are members of the buttercup family and are closely related to earlier blooming anemones. While only the red and yellow Aquilegia canadensis, a hummingbird attractor, lives in the East. About a dozen grow in the Rocky Mountains. One of the western species, the lilac and white variety, is called Rocky Mountain Columbine (A. caerules). It is Colorado’s state flower.
Columbine has had a past as colorful as its many varieties. It was once nominated as our national flower, but was disqualified because of an old tradition in which a man is supposed to give his wife a bouquet of columbine if he is unfaithful. It was also mixed into a lotion that was used to treat sore throats. Taking a couple of Columbine seeds with a glass of wine was supposed to speed up childbirth. Some Native Americans ate the roots and brewed a tea from its seeds to cure a fever. The Meskwaki Indians in Iowa used its seeds in love potion. While I don’t buy Columbine’s ability to work as an aphrodisiac, I have fallen in love with this uniquely shaped flower that grows in rugged terrain and comes in so many colors. In addition to this yellow and crimson clump, I’ve seen two-tone yellow, pure white, white and yellow, red and yellow, pink, blue, and purple and white ones. Each seems so delicately form, so lovely and demure with their nectar-filled lobes sitting like a tall crown on top of their bowed heads.