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    Aquilegia species hybridize and are, in the words of the Flora of North America, "difficult to define adequately.  Some of the variability is because of introgressive hybridization.  Even distantly related species of Columbine are often freely interfertile, and many cases of natural hybridization and introgression are known from North America."

    This page and linked ones shows Aquilegia coerulea, which occurs throughout the Four Corners area and which does occasionally hybridize with Aquilegia elegantula (Shooting Star Columbine).  The resulting hybrid shows interesting characteristics of both plants.

    The spurs present on most Aquilegia flowers are unique and give rise to its scientific and common names:
1) Almost all sources, including botanical Latin expert William Stearn, indicate that the word "Aquilegia" is derived from the Latin "Aquila" ("Eagle"). "Aquilegia" would then refer to the talons of an Eagle and their similarity to the spurs of the flower. William Weber, however, indicates that the word is derived from "aqua" ("water") and "legere" ("to collect") referring to the "nectar at the base of the spur".
2) "Columbine", Latin ("columbinus") for "Dove", refers to the flower's resemblance (from the rear or side of the flower) to a group of Doves.
 

More Aquilegia coerulea photographs 

Aquilegia micrantha.

Aquilegia coerulea
Aquilegia coerulea variety coerulea (Colorado Columbine)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Alpine, subalpine, montane.  Meadows, woodlands, rocks, scree.  Summer.
Above: Pass Creek Trail, July 14, 2016.
Left: Navajo Lake Trail, July 6, 2004.

This exotic Columbine is the state flower of Colorado.  It has a broad habitat range, thriving on hot, dry, talus slopes and in moist, shady forests; its color varies through a wonderful range of whites, blues, and purples; and its flowers thrive from June through August.  The five petals have unusual and showy spurs; the five sepals are usually larger than the petals. 

Edwin James discovered this plant for science when he was on the 1820 Long Expedition in Colorado.  He named and described the plant in 1823.  The spelling of the specific epithet is variable; some botanists spell it "caerulea", most "coerulea". The reason for the two spellings is almost certainly James' mistake: on the holotype specimen he spelled it "coerulea", but on some other specimens he collected, he spelled it "caerulea".  

A later side note on misspellings is the 1899 Colorado state law which made the plant the state flower of Colorado.  In the law the name was written "Aquilegia, Caerulea". Notice the incorrect use of a comma between the genus and specific epithet and also notice that the specific epithet is incorrectly capitalized. Obviously the state needs not only a state flower but also a state botanist.  

Fast forward to the Internet age and the 1899 mistake was compounded on the Colorado state web site which lists the state flower, bird, song, etc.  There the flower name was spelled "Aquilegia caerules".  Needless to say, with my drive toward getting things right, I called the Colorado State Archivist and the spelling of the name of the Colorado state flower has been corrected on the state web site. That's one small mistake corrected for mankind. Six trillion mistakes left. Do your part.

"Coerule" is Latin for "blue".

Aquilegia coerulea variety coerulea (Colorado Columbine)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Alpine, subalpine, montane.  Meadows, woodlands, rocks, scree.  Summer.
Navajo Lake Trail, July 6, 2004.

Aquilegia coerulea variety coerulea (Colorado Columbine)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Alpine, subalpine, montane.  Meadows, woodlands, rocks, scree.  Summer.
Colorado Trail above Hillside Drive, September 7, 2007.

Fall leaf color is subtle combinations of maroons, reds, pinks, and greens.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated

Questionable presence

Range map for Aquilegia coerulea