Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Plant of the week: American columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

This is a uniquely an American Plant and is a great example of evolution in process.  There is only one columbine in Europe, it is mostly bluish in color, and is pollinated by bees which can see that color (hint there are no hummingbirds in Europe).  The American species, at least in the east, are red with five long tubes wherein the nectar is contained deer within the tubes so that only the strongest and biggest insects can pollinate it.  However, it is uniquely designed for it's primary pollinator, the ruby throated hummingbird. While this is the only native species in the  east, there are about a dozen in the West and of course the crowing beauty is the Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine, Colorado's state flower.  This is kind of an unusual plant in the buttercup family and the leaves closely resemble those of meadow rue.  The really great thing about this gem is that it is largely resistant to leaf miners, something that the horticultural hybrids are quite susceptible too.  This is an easy to grow species in partial shade to full shade (the full shade plants get taller and more spindly) and can tolerate quite a bit of sun.  They have a long flowering period of up to a month and they like limestone soils (they naturally grow out of limestone cliffs and rock outcroppings) but give it good soil (although a bit on the dry side) and it will give you years of enjoyment for it self sows readily and persists in the garden for many years.  The generic name is derived from the word eagle which is thought to be related to the shape of the flowers as the individual petals look like eagle claws. Native Americans used it to treat heart trouble, kidney and bladder problems, headaches, and fever.  They also used it as a was for poison ivy. It was reported to also be used as a love charm.
This is a quite beloved wildflower as John Burroughs wrote: "Our columbine is at all times and in all places one of the most exquisitely beautiful of flowers. " I like growing this with eared coreopsis, Appalachian beard tongue, and Christmas fern.

1 comment:

  1. You are so right: our native Columbine is a gem. I grow many different Columbines, but this one has always and will always be my favorite. It's not only my favorite Columbine, but it's pretty much my favorite wildflower. Thanks for so much information.