Eastern red columbine has bloomed just in time for migrating Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds and that's no coincidence. Hummingbirds and certain flowers have co-adapted over millions of years to form a mutually beneficial relationship. Hummingbirds migrate thousands of miles annually and they're movement north typically coincides with the blooming of these preferred flowers. Eastern red columbine (trumpet honeysuckles, too) hold more nectar than other flowers and are irresistible to hummingbirds. Their co-adapted/mutually beneficial relationship is pretty cool. The long bill and tongue of these hummers fits into the throat of their preferred flowers to easily reach the nectar, and while feeding, grains of pollen spill onto the head of the bird and is carried to other columbines insuring pollination.
The bumblebee is another important pollinator and collects nectar and pollen for their larvae. Some of our larger queen bumblebees, which are also active in early spring, have proboscises long enough to reach the nectar; others “cheat” (Eastern carpenter bees are known nectar robbers) by tearing holes in the spurs to steal nectar without performing pollination services.
The co-adaption dance is marvelous and it's happening in gardens all over the Eastern United States.
If I ever capture a photo, I will be eternally appreciative.
|red sepals, yellow-limbed petals, 5 distinctive red spurs and a mass of bushy yellow stamens|
Wild columbines will hybridize with other columbines and you can have a variety of colors from the cross pollination. I only grow Aquilegia canadensis, so I haven't seen this, but, a friend had the cutest delicate pink columbine that she said was a natural cross.
Have you had this happen in your garden? It might be fun to cross pollinate them.
|growing in cracks in stone steps|
Eastern red columbine's bloom period overlaps with Golden ragwort and Phlox pilosa and I dubbed them the Happy Trinity of Clay and Limestone. In my metaphorical mindset, the trio is like a Mirepoix (cuisine)/holy trinity of ingredients and spices that when mixed together make the gardens colorful and tasty each spring. They are the garden's Spring flavor base and it gets even more delicious as Spring progresses. (Happy Flower Trinity)
I love the way columbine intermingles with the pinks and purples throughout my garden, not to all tastes, but a delicious presentation none the less. With any successful garden recipe there are always plants that provide additional flavor and I will tweak the recipe a little each year, adding new ingredients, adjusting others. It's important to experiment and see what tasty combinations you can create.
I see a few spots that need some eastern red columbine...hoping it will be delicious next spring.
Botanical name: Aquilegia canadensis
Common Name: wild columbine or Eastern red columbine
Native Range: Eastern North America
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Light pink/yellow to blood red/yellow
Flower: Showy, Good Cut flower
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Attracts: Bumblebees and the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird visit the flowers for nectar; bumblebees may also collect pollen for their larvae. Short-tongued Halictid bees collect pollen from the flowers, but they are less effective at cross-pollination. The larvae of various insects feed on Wild Columbine, including those of Erynnis lucilius (Columbine Duskywing), Papaipema leucostigma (Borer Moth sp.), Pristophora aquiligae (Columbine Sawfly), and several Phytomyza spp. (Leaf Miner Flies).(source)
|giant leopard moth or eyed tiger moth (Hypercompe scribonia)|
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Drought, Dry Soil Garden locations
Comments: Foliage is toxic and it is little bothered by mammalian herbivores. Excellent garden plant, good in shade gardens, rock gardens, cottage gardens or naturalized areas. The light, airy texture of the stems and flowers combines well with a variety of early bloomers such as Wild Geranium, Foamflower, and Wild Ginger.
Welcome to Clay and Limestone and Wildflower Wednesday. Thank you all for joining me as we celebrate and share our marvelous and beautiful wildflowers. I hope 2020 is the year we all plant more native wildflowers for the many critters that live in and visit our gardens. Let's be sure we celebrate them every day, not just WW. Remember, it doesn't matter if they are in bloom or not, you can still share them. Please leave a comment and add your name to Mr Linky so others can pop over to see your Wildflower Wednesday post.
Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.