The upward tubes contain nectar that attracts insects, such as hawk moths, and hummingbirds that have long tongues. It is reported that Native Americans rubbed the crushed seeds on the hands of men as a love charm. columbine is called "the flower for the masses." Once started, columbine propagates for years and, although perennial, they increase rapidly by self seeding. (Andy Fyon)
This species is deer resistant. (Evergreen)
Columbines have large showy red nodding flowers, each with 5 long spurs at the back.
Seeds can be sown throughout the year, or volunteer seedlings can be transplanted as soon as they come up.
This plant can be sown in a variety of soils from well-drained sandy, medium loam, sandy loam and is often found on a thin layer of soil on a limestone base. (Wild Flower Centre, LBJ)
Habitat Information: This plants is present in many habitats such as open woods, sides of roads, and fields, but is also a common alvar plant. Columbine appears in alvars on the Bruce Penninsula and in other alvar areas in southern Ontario, such as the Carden alvar. In alvar conditions, the plant is well adapted to live in tiny divots in rock, with barely any soil. In gardens, it also seems attracted to living in, around and under rock. Red and yellow flower hang down with five spurs pointing upwards appear in April to June and attract hummingbirds, and bees.
Garden Uses: The plant will self seed under a rock down a garden path, and likes rocky low soil habitats in some areas. The plant will morph according to the conditions that the habitat allows, growing to less than 5 cm in impoverished growing conditions on alvars, or to sometimes even 1 metre tall in more fertile garden conditions. Columbine seeds itself readily, and the leaves of next year's plants come up in the fall of the year before. As columbine has a taproot (root that extends far down into the soil as an adaptation to drought), it is best to transplant columbine when small when they have a smaller root system, and trying to get as much of the taproot as possible. (Evergreen) The seeds need light to germinate (Lorraine Johnson, The New Ontario Naturalized Garden).
Insect Relationships: The following study by Michigan State University detailed insects that were attracted to specific native plant species. The following insects were shown to be attracted to this plant "Enemies Attracted: None. Pests Attracted: Small numbers of lygus bugs, aphids, thrips and froghoppers. Bees attracted: Low numbers (less than 1 bee per meter square in a 30 second sample) of sweat bees. Species Notes: ... although visually attractive, we collected almost no insects at this hummingbird pollinated plant, and zero natural enemies. This species was the least attractive to natural enemies in the early season and the entire growing season, with zero natural enemies." (Michigan State University, Native Plant Facts).
Traditional Edible, Medicinal Uses: Crushed seed used for an aromatic perfume, that lasts a long time. Some plants of same family are mildly toxic. Flowers probably safe, although records do not confirm, proceed with caution with any of the following uses. They are sweet and flavourful, filled with nectar, in salads. Root chewed to create tea for diarrhoea, stomach aches although caution advised, as above. Root astringent, diaphoretic, parasiticide, resolvent, salve, diuretic. Tea for uterine bleeding. Boiled plant used as hair wash. Seed is anodyne and febrifuge. Infusion used for headaches and fevers. (Plants for a Future)
Green Roof Applications: This drought hardy plant has been grown in soil levels 5 inches and up with excellent results. (Evergreen)
Andy's Northern ON Wildflower
Canadian BIF Butterflies
David Suzuki Foundation
USDA PLANTS Database
Wild Flower Centre
Michigan State University
Plants for a Future
Ontario Native Plants: 2002 Resource Guide
Ontario Native Plants Company
National Audubon Society: Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, Eastern Region
National Audubon Society
Alfred A. Knopf, New York