(from aquilegus, water-drawer, not from aquila, eagle). Ranunculaceae. Columbine. Hardy perennial herbs of the northern hemisphere; mostly with paniculate branches, terminated by showy flowers, and 1–3 ternately-compound leaves, commonly glaucous; the leaflets roundish and obtusely lobed: flowers. large, showy, usually in spring or early summer; sepals 5, regular, petaloid; petals concave, produced backward between the sepals, forming a hollow spur; stamens numerous: flower. of about 5 many seeded follicles. About 30 distinct species. The Columbines are among the most beautiful and popular of all hardy plants. Seeds sown in pans, in cold frames in March, or open air in April, occasionally bloom the first season, but generally the second.
The different species should be some distance apart, if possible if the pure seed is desired, as the most diverse species hybridize directly. They may be propagated by division, but better by seeds. Absolutely pure seed is hard to obtain, except the plants in the wild state; and some of the mixed forms are quite inferior to the true species from which they have come. A. caerulea, glandulosa, and vulgaris are likely to flower only two or three years, and should be treated as biennials; but A. vulgaris may be kept active for a longer period by transplanting.
A light, sandy soil, moist, with good drainage, sheltered, but exposed to the sun, is what they prefer. Some of the stronger species, when of nearly full-flowering size, may be transplanted into heavier garden soil, even heavy clay, and made to succeed; but for the rearing of young seedlings, a light, sandy loam is essential. The seed of most Columbines is rather slow in germinating, and it is necessary to keep the soil moist on top of the ground until the young plants are up. A cold frame, with medium-heavy cotton covering, is a good place to grow the plants. The cotton retains sufficient moisture to keep the soil moist on top, and still admits sufficient circulation of air to prevent damping-off of the young seedlings. When large enough, the seedlings may be pricked out into another frame for a time, or, by shading for a few days until they get a start, they may be set into the permanent border, or wherever they are to be placed.