[Columbines: The Genus Aquilegia in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and Washington]

Red Columbine, Western Columbine, Sitka Columbine

Aquilegia formosa

Synonyms: Aquilegia formosa var. communis, Aquilegia formosa var. formosa, Aquilegia formosa var. fosteri, Aquilegia formosa var. hypolasia, Aquilegia formosa var. megalantha, Aquilegia formosa var. pauciflora, Aquilegia formosa var. truncata, Aquilegia formosa var. wawawensis

Flower of Red Columbine, Western Columbine, Sitka Columbine: Aquilegia formosa (Synonyms: Aquilegia formosa var. communis, Aquilegia formosa var. formosa, Aquilegia formosa var. fosteri, Aquilegia formosa var. hypolasia, Aquilegia formosa var. megalantha, Aquilegia formosa var. pauciflora, Aquilegia formosa var. truncata, Aquilegia formosa var. wawawensis) - Flower of Red Columbine, Western Columbine, Sitka Columbine: Aquilegia formosa (Synonyms: Aquilegia formosa var. communis, Aquilegia formosa var. formosa, Aquilegia formosa var. fosteri, Aquilegia formosa var. hypolasia, Aquilegia formosa var. megalantha, Aquilegia formosa var. pauciflora, Aquilegia formosa var. truncata, Aquilegia formosa var. wawawensis)

Western columbine as seen at left along the Klickitat Trail #7 about three-quarters of a mile uphill to the west of Jackpot Lake, Gifford Pinchot National Forest.........July 4, 2015. The photo at right shows western columbine in forest openings atop the long ridgeline of Monte Cristo, Gifford Pinchot National Forest........June 18, 2021.

Photos above and right of Red Columbine from the Mount Hood Wilderness, early August 1992.
Characteristics:

Red columbine is a close relative of the yellow columbine. Where their ranges overlap, they may hybridize and create interesting offspring to confuse even the more adept botanists!

The leaves are largely basal, and are divided into multiples of three leaflets. These smaller leaflets are further lobed. The stem leaves are alternate, and smaller representatives of the basal leaves.

The flowers are irregularly shaped, with five red sepals flared to the sides, and five smaller yellow petals extending below the petals. The petals also consist of a a long red, conical, nectar producing spur which extends above the sepals. The stamens typically dangle below the petals. The whole flower tends to nod downward, with the spurs pointing upwards. The flowers of the red columbine tend to be larger than those of the yellow columbine.


Habitat:

Red columbine is found from moist, open forests of the lowlands, to subalpine meadows.


Range:

The red columbine is widely distributed throughout the Pacific Northwest, but in the arid regions, tends to be limited to near streams or mid to upper elevation meadows. In the Cascade Mts, it is much more common than yellow columbine.


Red Columbine, Western Columbine, Sitka Columbine: Aquilegia formosa (Synonyms: Aquilegia formosa var. communis, Aquilegia formosa var. formosa, Aquilegia formosa var. fosteri, Aquilegia formosa var. hypolasia, Aquilegia formosa var. megalantha, Aquilegia formosa var. pauciflora, Aquilegia formosa var. truncata, Aquilegia formosa var. wawawensis) - Flower of Red Columbine, Western Columbine, Sitka Columbine: Aquilegia formosa (Synonyms: Aquilegia formosa var. communis, Aquilegia formosa var. formosa, Aquilegia formosa var. fosteri, Aquilegia formosa var. hypolasia, Aquilegia formosa var. megalantha, Aquilegia formosa var. pauciflora, Aquilegia formosa var. truncata, Aquilegia formosa var. wawawensis)

Red columbine as seen at left along the Chinook Trail #808B on the west side of Silver Star Mountain, Gifford Pinchot National Forest..........June 3, 2016. The photo at right shows red columbine blooming along the Pacific Crest Trail near Hobart Bluff, Cascade-Siskiyou National Forest......May 27, 2021.

Red Columbine, Western Columbine, Sitka Columbine: Aquilegia formosa (Synonyms: Aquilegia formosa var. communis, Aquilegia formosa var. formosa, Aquilegia formosa var. fosteri, Aquilegia formosa var. hypolasia, Aquilegia formosa var. megalantha, Aquilegia formosa var. pauciflora, Aquilegia formosa var. truncata, Aquilegia formosa var. wawawensis)

Red columbine as seen along an old pack trail ascending steeply northwest from the uppermost part of the loop of the South Fork Tieton River Trail #1120, Goat Rocks Wilderness........July 21, 2016.

Red Columbine, Western Columbine, Sitka Columbine: Aquilegia formosa (Synonyms: Aquilegia formosa var. communis, Aquilegia formosa var. formosa, Aquilegia formosa var. fosteri, Aquilegia formosa var. hypolasia, Aquilegia formosa var. megalantha, Aquilegia formosa var. pauciflora, Aquilegia formosa var. truncata, Aquilegia formosa var. wawawensis) - Flower of Red Columbine, Western Columbine, Sitka Columbine: Aquilegia formosa (Synonyms: Aquilegia formosa var. communis, Aquilegia formosa var. formosa, Aquilegia formosa var. fosteri, Aquilegia formosa var. hypolasia, Aquilegia formosa var. megalantha, Aquilegia formosa var. pauciflora, Aquilegia formosa var. truncata, Aquilegia formosa var. wawawensis)

Western columbine as seen at left about one-half mile north of Cultus Lake along the Indian Heaven Trail #33, Indian Heaven Wilderness..........August 26, 2016. The photo at right shows western columbine in bloom along the Little Naches River Road, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.......June 9, 2019.

Red Columbine, Western Columbine, Sitka Columbine: Aquilegia formosa (Synonyms: Aquilegia formosa var. communis, Aquilegia formosa var. formosa, Aquilegia formosa var. fosteri, Aquilegia formosa var. hypolasia, Aquilegia formosa var. megalantha, Aquilegia formosa var. pauciflora, Aquilegia formosa var. truncata, Aquilegia formosa var. wawawensis) - Red Columbine, Western Columbine, Sitka Columbine: Aquilegia formosa (Synonyms: Aquilegia formosa var. communis, Aquilegia formosa var. formosa, Aquilegia formosa var. fosteri, Aquilegia formosa var. hypolasia, Aquilegia formosa var. megalantha, Aquilegia formosa var. pauciflora, Aquilegia formosa var. truncata, Aquilegia formosa var. wawawensis)

Western columbine in bloom along the McClellan Meadows Trail #57 about one mile west of Forest Road 65, Gifford Pinchot National Forest......July 4, 2020.


Paul Slichter