columbine kŏl´əmbīn [key], any plant of the genus Aquilegia, temperate-zone perennials of the family Ranunculaceae ( buttercup family), popular both as wildflowers and as garden flowers. Columbines have delicate and attractive foliage and flower petals with long spurs that secrete nectar. The common Eastern red-and-yellow-flowered wild columbine ( A. canadensis ), frequenting rocky places, is also called rockbell; it is a favorite of hummingbirds, and Native Americans made an infusion of the seeds for headache and fever. The blue-and-white-flowered A. coerulea of the Rockies is the state flower of Colorado. The common European columbine ( A. vulgaris ), blue, white, or purple flowered, has been the source of many cultivars—some double and of various soft colors. Columbine is classified in the division Magnoliophyta , class Magnoliopsida, order Ranunculales, family Ranunculaceae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Plants