It’s a native wildflower! It’s a magazine! It’s a logo! It’s Aquilegia coerulea! This glamorous native plant is in bloom right now, perfect timing for our announcement that back issues our Society’s magazine of the same name can be can now be accessed from our website. The archived issues exist from the year 2013 when the Society first began to publish the magazine in color, a big step up from the black and white newsletters. Just like the flower, the magazine is beautiful to look but in addition, is full of interesting articles written by experts addressing topics related to botanical science, conservation issues, field trip reports, growing natives, invasive weed control, wildlife connections and so much more. All of the issues are available for download with the exception of the two latest ones, which are reserved for members only. Good idea to join the Colorado Native Plant Society!


Archived Aquilegia magazine

The Aquilegia coerulea, inspiration for our logo and our magazine name
 Aquilegia coerulea, called Colorado Blue Columbine in the Flora of Colorado, by Jennifer Ackerfield
Those long spurs are one of the most extravagant features of the Aquilegia coerulea. These are hollow and slender, tubular projections of a sepal or petal. They are repositories for glands that secret necatar. The two most common pollinators of this native plant are hawkmoths and bumble-bees. In Colorado we have six species of Aquilegia that are native, or that occur naturally here. Aquilegia species “tend to be widely interfertile;” their various  populations are close to or overlapping each other, one of the things that has enabled them to hybridize freely, which can make exact identification a challenge sometimes. The identifcation picture is further clouded by the fact that the native species also hybridize with non-native species introduced by the commercial nursery trade. The Westen red columbine, Aquilegia elegantula is the one favored by hummingbirds.The Golden columbine, Aquilegia chrysantha, is found in only two counties, but has been introduced in many home gardens. 
Blue columbine and Golden banner in Wild Basin.

This photo from Wild Basin in the RMNP shows the Colorado blue columbine dancing with Golden banner, Thermopsis spp. You may see the species name ‘coerulea’ spelled in a variety of fashions; for an entertaining read check out Al Schneider’s columbine page and discover the many ways the spelling was corrupted, and how he went to the mat to get the right spelling on our state’s website!

The Aquilegia coerulea, is of course, our state flower, and our state flag incorporates its colors. It’s also the logo of our Colorado Native Plant Society. We are lucky that in Colorado the Blue columbine is considered by NatureServe to be ranked as ‘apparently secure,’ but in two of the other states where it is native it is considered vulnerable or imperiled: NatureServe.

It’s up to all of us to help ensure the future of this beautiful part of our state’s biodiversity. The Aquilegia coerulea is many things. Let’s help keep it around so its symbolic connections can be appreciated in reality, not in history.

Sue Dingwell
Media Committee
Colorado Native Plant Society