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Northwest Crimson Columbine
Aquilegia formosa Fisch. ex. Watson
Located on the Kooskooskee, June 16, 1806. (Source)The flowers of Western Columbine hang from tall 2 foot or higher stalks like small Chinese lanterns brightly glowing. The flowers are in bloom between late May to early August depending on the elevation. The flower buds look like small orange-red comets with long tails. Some people see the talon of an eagle and hence say that the name is derived from the Latin "aquilla" or eagle. As the buds open, the orange/red spurs open to reveal a circle of bright yellow petals (sepals) and the bushy tuft of stamens and styles. This name refers to the drops of nectar that sometimes form on the petals or ends of the spurs. There are 5 spurs and 5 petals. The leaves of Western Columbine are pretty in their own right. The leaves are basal, thin and bluish green. The leaves are in groups of three and each leaf is split several times to about the middle of the leaf. . Western Columbine grows best in the sun in soil with plenty of moisture. This plant will adjust to a wide variety of soils and conditions. Western Columbine will self-sow.
This is a "damp soil" plant and is not typically found on the drier eastern side of the Cascade mountains. Some sources report that Western Columbine is native in the damper areas to western Montana, Idaho and Utah. Western Columbine is found from sea level to 3000 meters. (Source)