Wild Columbine – Aquilegia canadensis

Wild Columbine
Wild Columbine

Skirting the rocks at the forest edge
With a running flame from ledge to ledge,
Or swaying deeper in shadowy glooms,
A smoldering fire in her dusky blooms;
Bronzed and molded by wind and sun,
Maddening, gladdening every one
With a gypsy beauty full and fine,–
A health to the crimson columbine!

-Elaine Goodale Eastman
(1863-1953)

 

This red columbine is the only columbine that occurs in eastern North America! This delicate, but hardy native plant is not a good companion in most gardens as it inhibits the growth of nearby plants. It does do well with other natives plants such as Jack-in-the-pulpit, Goat’s Beard, Wild Ginger, Wild Geranium, Virginia Bluebells, Woodland Phlox, Jacob’s Ladder, Bloodroot, Celandine Poppy, Woodland Spiderwort, Purple Trillium, White Trillium, Blue Cohosh, Black Cohosh, Shooting Star, Ginseng, Christmas Fern, Dutchman’s Breeches.

Native Americans used infusions from different parts of the plant for a variety of ailments from heart trouble to fever and even as a wash for poison-ivy. All parts of the plant contain Hydrocyanic acid which causes both severe gastroenteritis and heart palpitations. An elder Lenape Grandmother once told me to use the root as a poison by making a tea of the root  to cause diarrhea!

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