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Aquilegia formosa
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Western Columbine
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Aquilegia formosa

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About Western Columbine (Aquilegia formosa) Names include Crimson Columbine, Western Columbine or (ambiguously) "Red Columbine". It is a common and attractive wildflower native to western North America, from Alaska to Baja California, and eastward to Montana and Wyoming. It is very often known as the "Red Columbine", but because this name is also used for a number of other members of the genus Aquilegia, it is not recommended. Within its range, the Crimson Columbine can be found in most kinds of habitat (chaparral, oak woodland, mixed-evergreen or coniferous forest). It is not found on desert floors, nor at altitudes above 3300 meters, and it is absent from the Central Valley of California. It prefers moist locations such as stream banks and needs summer water. It prefers light shade especially in the afternoon.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Perennial herb

Max. Height
1.5 - 3 ft (0.46 - 0.9 m)

Max. Width
1 ft (0.3 m)

Upright, Fountain


Growth Rate

Winter Deciduous, Evergreen

Flower Color
Red, Yellow

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Found in a number of settings and habitats including streambanks, seeps, woodland settings, and other moist places. It is often found adjacent to chaparral, forest or woodland habitats.

Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade

Elevation ?
5' - 14019'

Annual Precip. ?
5.4" - 154.0"

Summer Precip. ?
0.21" - 5.80"

Coldest Month ?
9.1° F - 52.5° F

Hottest Month ?
32.8° F - 79.6° F

Humidity ?
0.01 vpd - 29.47 vpd

Soil Description
Woodland soil with organic material and good drainage

Soil PH
4.0 - 8.0

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Serpentine Soil


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 0° F

Sunset Zones ?
1, 2, 3, 4*, 5*, 6*, 7*, 8, 9, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24*

Companion Plants
Trees - Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), Santa Lucia Fir (Abies bracteata), Duoglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), and many others.

Shrubs and herbs - Meadow Rue (Thalictrum fendleri), Snowdrop Bush (Styrax officinalis), Yellow Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), Western Azalea (Rhododendron occidentale), and Huckleberry (Vaccinum ovatum).

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Low, Moderate - High
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Organic with Rocks

Self-sows readily so deadhead if desired, or allow flowers to go to seed if you want it to spread.

Propagation ?
By seed.  For propagating by seed: No treatment.

Common uses
Bird Gardens, Deer Resistant

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
Red Columbine

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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