This section is from the book "Sub-Alpine Plants Or Flowers Of The Swiss Woods And Meadows", by H. Stuart Thompson. Also available from Amazon: Sub-Alpine Plants: Or, Flowers of the Swiss Woods and Meadows.
Stem 6-12 inches high, tender, more or less covered with viscid, glandular hairs, especially above. Leaves glabrous, once or twice ternate, leaflets obovate-spathulate, 2-3 lobed, with rounded entire or slightly indented lobes. Flowers about 1 inch broad, purple. Spur of corolla nearly straight at the apex or curved, but not rolled up. Receptacle rounded, as long as or longer than the stamens.
Rocky places in the lower Alps up to 5000 feet. June, July.
Upper Bavaria, Tyrol (Salzburg), Carinthia, etc.
Stem about a foot high, very slender, almost naked, with 1-3 flowers. Leaves small, 2- or 3-ternate, with entire or divided leaflets. Flowers blue, rather large, but smaller than those of A. alpina. Petals with rounded lip. Spur slender, straight, slightly longer than the lip. Follicles rather small (12-15 mill.).
Rocks and debris-strewn slopes in the Alpine and sub-alpine region. July, August.
French and Spanish Pyrenees.
Stem 1 1/2-2 feet high, simple or slightly branched, often rather viscid, as several of the Aquilegias are, leafy, with 1-5 flowers. Radical leaves biternate, with deeply incised lobes; stem-leaves with several linear lobes or entire. Flowers clear blue, in a narrow panicle, shortly peduncled. Petals with lip rounded or sub-truncate. Spur curved back into a hook, equalling the lip in length. Stamens as long as the lip. Follicles small.
Woods and rocky places in the Western Alps. June, July.
Western Alps only, as Hautes-Alpes, Basses-Alpes, Maritime Alps, Var, Liguria, and Piedmont; abundant in some of the Ligurian and Maritime Alps, at from 2400 to 5500 feet, where it takes the place of A. alpina.
Stem 2-3 feet high, pubescent, branched above. Lower leaves longly petioled, usually biternate, with broad incised segments; upper leaves sessile, with lobes often entire. Flowers purple, rarely white or rose, large, longly peduncled.
Woody places and rough hilly pastures, especially on limestone, from the plains up to 5000 feet. May to July.
Nearly all Europe; Siberia, Himalaya. Indigenous in parts of the British Isles, but often introduced.
This is probably a variety of the Common Columbine, with violet-black flowers about an inch in diameter, which occasionally grows at about 5000 feet in the Italian Maritime Alps and the Jura, and flowers in June and July. The stamens are longer than in the common Aquilegia.
Hoffmann speaks of its being "widely, and in some places abundantly, distributed over the Alps and sub-Alps, and regarded by many botanists as an Alpine form of the Common Columbine"; but he and some other botanists include in this category the ordinary mountain plants with "purple-brown" flowers, which are so common and so decorative in many Alpine pastures, as e.g. those about Engelberg.
The Alpine species of Aquilegia are rather more difficult to cultivate than the common one, and they are best sown from seed in spring obtained direct from the Alps, pricked out into pans or a cold frame, and planted in early autumn in deep, well-drained loam with some grit in it. On rockeries they do well in half-shady but well-drained positions, but A. alpina likes rather more sun.