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ancolie vulgaire, European columbine

ancolie, columbine

Habit Herbs, perennial, from slender woody rhizomes.

30-72 cm.


blade 1-3x-ternately compound, leaflets lobed or parted, margins crenate.

Basal leaves

2x-ternately compound, 10-30 cm, much shorter than stems;

leaflets green adaxially, to 15-47 mm, not viscid;

primary petiolules 22-60 mm (leaflets not crowded), pilose or rarely glabrous.


terminal, 1-10-flowered cymes or solitary flowers, to 30 cm;

bracts leaflike, not forming involucre.



sepals divergent from or perpendicular to floral axis, mostly blue or purple, lance-ovate, (10-)15-25 × 8-12 mm, apex broadly acute or obtuse;

petals: spurs mostly blue or purple, hooked, 14-22 mm, stout, evenly tapered from base, blades mostly blue or purple, oblong, 10-13 × 6-10 mm;

stamens 9-13 mm.

bisexual, radially symmetric;

sepals not persistent in fruit, 5, white to blue, yellow, or red, plane, narrowly ovate to oblong-lanceolate, short-clawed, 7-51 mm;

petals 5, distinct, white to blue, yellow, or red, oblong to rounded or spatulate blade, 0-30 mm, base backward-pointing tubular spur, apex plane;

nectary in ± enlarged tip of spur;

stamens many;

filaments filiform; scalelike staminodes usually present between stamens and pistils;

pistils 5-10, simple;

ovules many per pistil;

beak present.


follicles, aggregate, sessile, cylindric, sides prominently veined;

beak terminal, straight, 3-26 mm.


black, obovoid, smooth.


15-25 mm;

beak 7-15 mm.


= 7.


= 14 (Europe).

Aquilegia vulgaris


Phenology Flowering spring–summer (May–Jul).
Habitat Disturbed habitats
Elevation 0-1500 m (0-4900 ft)
from FNA
CT; IA; IL; MA; ME; MI; MN; NC; NH; NJ; NY; OH; PA; RI; VT; WA; WV; BC; MB; NB; NF; NS; ON; PE; QC; native to Europe [Introduced in North America]
[WildflowerSearch map]
[BONAP county map]
from USDA
[BONAP county map]

Aquilegia vulgaris is cultivated as an ornamental and occasionally escapes into disturbed habitats. Most plants have blue or purple flowers (the wild type), but horticultural races with white or reddish flowers sometimes become established. Many cultivated columbines are derived from hybrids between A. vulgaris and related species. Some of our escaped plants are probably descended from such hybrids.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Species ca. 70 (21 in the flora).

Species of Aquilegia are polymorphic and difficult to define adequately. Some of the variability is because of introgressive hybridization. Even distantly related species of columbine are often freely interfertile, and many cases of natural hybridization and introgression are known from North America. Only the most important are mentioned below. In arid areas Aquilegia species tend to form small populations often completely isolated from one another. This leads to local fixation of genes and therefore increased variability in species such as A. micrantha and A. desertorum. In addition, populations with spurless petals are occasionally found in many species.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

1. Spurs hooked, 3-22 mm; sepals white or blue.
→ 2
1. Spurs straight or nearly so (sometimes tips incurved in A. flavescens), 8-180 mm; sepals blue, white, cream, yellow, pink, or red (A. flavescens with yellow or pink sepals).
→ 5
2. Spurs 14-22 mm; introduced species, at low elevations (0-1500 m).
A. vulgaris
2. Spurs 3-10 mm; native, at high elevations or high latitudes.
→ 3
3. Basal leaves much shorter than stems.
A. brevistyla
3. Basal leaves about as long as stems.
→ 4
4. Sepals and spurs white or nearly so; Wyoming.
A. laramiensis
4. Sepals and spurs blue; Colorado.
A. saximontana
5. Sepals and spurs blue, white, cream, reddish purple, or occasionally pink (if pink then with no trace of yellow); flowers usually erect (sometimes nodding in A. micrantha); spurs slender (stout at least proximally in A. jonesii), evenly tapered from base.
→ 6
5. Sepals and spurs yellow, pink and yellow, or red; flowers erect or nodding; spur shape various.
→ 9
6. Leaflets viscid.
A. micrantha
6. Leaflets not viscid.
→ 7
7. Spurs 8-15 mm.
A. jonesii
7. Spurs 25-70(-72) mm.
→ 8
8. Leaflets glaucous on both sides, 5-14 mm, crowded (primary petiolules 3-15 mm); spurs 25-40 mm.
A. scopulorum
8. Leaflets green adaxially, 13-42(-61) mm, not crowded, primary petiolules (10-)20-70 mm; spurs 28-72 mm.
A. coerulea
9. Sepals red (at least proximally); spurs red (red proximally, then pink in A. shockleyi), stout (at least proximally), abruptly narrowed near middle, 12-32 mm; flowers nodding or pendent.
→ 10
9. Sepals and spurs yellow or pink; spurs slender (except for A. flavescens and A. barnebyi), evenly tapered from base (sometimes abruptly narrowed near middle in A. flavescens and A. micrantha), 10-180 mm; flowers usually erect, sometimes nodding.
→ 15
10. Sepals perpendicular to floral axis; petal blades 0-6 mm.
→ 11
10. Sepals parallel to or divergent from floral axis; petal blades 4-12 mm.
→ 13
11. Mouth of spur cut obliquely backward; stamens 17-30 mm.
A. eximia
11. Mouth of spur truncate or with short blade; stamens 12-17 mm.
→ 12
12. Leaflets glaucous on both sides; petal blades 2-5 mm.
A. shockleyi
12. Leaflets green adaxially; petal blades 0-6 mm.
A. formosa
13. Sepals red proximally, yellow-green distally, not much longer than petal blades; stamens 8-14 mm.
A. elegantula
13. Sepals red or apex green or yellow-green, about 2 times length of petal blades; stamens 14-23 mm.
→ 14
14. Blades of petals pale yellow or yellow-green; basal leaves 2×-ternately compound, leaflets to 17-52 mm; e North America, w to c Texas.
A. canadensis
14. Blades of petals yellow or red and yellow; basal leaves 2-3×-ternately compound, leaflets to 9-26(-32) mm; Arizona, New Mexico, Utah.
A. desertorum
15. Spurs 42-180 mm.
→ 16
15. Spurs 10-40 mm.
→ 18
16. Spurs 72-180 mm; petal blades spatulate.
A. longissima
16. Spurs 42-70 mm; petal blades oblong, not much broadened distally.
→ 17
17. Sepals 14-18 mm wide.
A. hinckleyana
17. Sepals 5-10 mm wide.
A. chrysantha
18. Spurs yellow, stout, ± incurved, 10-18 mm; flowers nodding.
A. flavescens
18. Spurs yellow to pink or cream, slender, straight, 15-40 mm; flowers erect to nodding.
→ 19
19. Beak 15-18 mm; sepals 9-19 mm, yellow; se New Mexico, w Texas.
A. chaplinei
19. Beak 8-12 mm; sepals not as above: either cream or pink or if yellow, then (15-)20-25 mm; Colorado, Arizona to California.
→ 20
20. Sepals (15-)20-25 mm, petal blades 8-17 mm, spurs 25-40 mm; flowers erect; California.
A. pubescens
20. Sepals 8-20 mm, petal blades 6-10 mm, spurs 14-30 mm; flowers nodding or erect; Colorado, Arizona, Utah.
→ 21
21. Leaflets viscid, green adaxially.
A. micrantha
21. Leaflets not viscid, glaucous on both surfaces.
A. barnebyi
Source FNA vol. 3. FNA vol. 3. Author: Alan T. Whittemore.
Parent taxa Ranunculaceae > Aquilegia Ranunculaceae
Sibling taxa
A. barnebyi, A. brevistyla, A. canadensis, A. chaplinei, A. chrysantha, A. coerulea, A. desertorum, A. elegantula, A. eximia, A. flavescens, A. formosa, A. hinckleyana, A. jonesii, A. laramiensis, A. longissima, A. micrantha, A. pubescens, A. saximontana, A. scopulorum, A. shockleyi
Subordinate taxa
A. barnebyi, A. brevistyla, A. canadensis, A. chaplinei, A. chrysantha, A. coerulea, A. desertorum, A. elegantula, A. eximia, A. flavescens, A. formosa, A. hinckleyana, A. jonesii, A. laramiensis, A. longissima, A. micrantha, A. pubescens, A. saximontana, A. scopulorum, A. shockleyi, A. vulgaris
Name authority Linnaeus: Sp. Pl. 1: 533. (1753) Linnaeus: Sp. Pl. 1: 533. 175: Gen. Pl. ed. 5, 237. (1754)
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