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Wild columbine

Wild columbine has unusual flowers.

Wild columbine is a herbaceous perennial, native to North America. The unusual, spur-shaped, red and yellow flowers hang downward from sparsely branched stems in late spring to early summer. A perfect addition for naturalizing and shady gardens. 

This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.  

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Aquilegia canadensis

All common names:

Wild columbine, columbine, cluckies, Jack-in-trousers

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Perennial

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Mixed border

Size Range:

  • Large plant (more than 24 inches),
  • Medium plant (12-24 inches)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Alkaline soil,
  • Dry soil,
  • Sandy soil


  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • mid spring,
  • late spring,
  • early summer

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Orange,
  • Yellow

Shape or Form:

  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

More Information:


A 1 to 3 foot high, sparsely branched herbaceous perennial

Plant Care

Best in part shade to light sun in moist to dry conditions.
Tolerant of wide range of soil from sandy to rocky loam.
Plants tolerant of full sun with adequate moisture once established

Disease, pests, and problems

Resistant to leaf miner

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Deer, rabbit, drought and dry soil

Native geographic location and habitat

Found in rocky open woodlands, wooded slopes, sandy savannas, and cliff bluffs in North American.
It is the only columbine native to IL
C-Value: 6 

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Hummingbirds, bees and other pollinators

Leaf description

Mounds of basal ternately compound (divided into groups of 3 leaflets) leaves
Each 3 inches long and 2 inches wide; upper surface glabrous with a whitish bloom
Foliage is toxic

Flower description

Round stems that are red to green and fuzzy hold the individual or in groups of 3 flowers
Each flower is 1 1/2 inch long and hangs downward.
Showy flowers consist of 5 yellow petals, 5 red, petal-like sepals and many long yellow anthers and stamens.
The base of the flower has long red to reddish-purple nectar spurs.
Flowers in late spring to early summer, lasting 3 to 4 weeks.

Fruit description

Each flower produces a 5 pod-shaped follicle with a long beak; seeds are shiny black

Cultivars and other species and their differences

Corbett wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis 'Corbett'): A short mound reaching 8 to 12 inches high; yellow flowers in May and June

Little Lanterns wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis 'Little Lanterns'): compact, 12 to 18 inches high and 18 to 24 inches wide; scarlet red flowers with showy yellow corolla

Similar species

Fan Columbine (Aquilegia flabellata):  compact, 12 to 18 inches high and 12 inches wide; waxy nodding flowers, lilac-blue with short curving spurs; blue green compound leaves; great for rock gardens

Dwarf White Fan columbine (Aquilegia flabellata 'Nana Alba'): compact, less than 12 inches high; white flowers

Ministar Fan columbine (Aquilegia flabellata 'Ministar'): 6 to 12 inches high and wide; blue and white nodding flowers; blue-green foliage

Location of Aquilegia canadensis (Wild columbine) at the Arboretum