Allied to A. casrulea ; tall, two to four feet; flowers deep yellow ; sepals lanceolate oblong ; limb of the petals a little longer than broad. - {Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. VIII, p. 621.)

Aquilegia Chrysantha

Aquilegia Chrysantha

Golden Columbine Aquilegia Chrysantha Asa Gray Nat 10016

THE Columbines are celebrated plants. This, the Golden Columbine, has been definitely known only for a short time. Nuttall, Thurber, Wright, and Parry met with it in their travels through the Southwest; but it was thought to be a variety of another species, until Dr. Gray described it as above. It is a native of New Mexico, Arizona, and Southern Utah.

The family of Columbines is represented in the eastern United States by a single species only, while in the Southwest and West there are several. It crosses the American continent to Siberia, and thence extends by several species into the northern and mountainous districts of Europe.

The name, Aquilegia, given to this genus, has not been satisfactorily accounted for. Gray, Darlington, and other botanists say it is from the Latin aquila, an eagle, from a fancied resemblance in the long spur-like nectaries to the talons of an eagle; but it is quite as likely to be from aqua, water, and lego, to collect, in allusion to their pitcher-like appearance. These spurs, however, being generally horizontal, or even erect in some cases, would really be unable to collect much rain; but names are often given as much from fancy as from fact. The spurs are called nectaries, because they generally contain a small quantity of sweet liquid. The common name, "Columbine," is derived from the Latin, signifying a dove; but it takes a great deal of imagination to see any resemblance to a dove in our species, in which the horns turn outwards. In many of the European and Asiatic forms, however, the horns are short and bend inwards, and there is a sudden thickening at the end of the horn. The ancient artists, as Dr. Prior tells us in his "Popular Names of British Plants," loved to picture doves feeding together in peace around a dish, and if we set one of the dove-colored Old World forms on the ground, with the horns uppermost, it has exactly the appearance of one of these old-time dove dinner-parties. Darwin, in his notes to the "Botanic Garden," a fanciful old work published seventy years ago, in which plants are endowed with the attributes of animal life, tells us the resemblance is to a nest of young doves, fluttering and elevating their necks as the parent approaches with food for them; but as the dove has but two young at a time, the nest full would be rather slim, and Dr. Prior's explanation is more probable.

Though there is nothing of the dove in the shape of our species, those who love to trace resemblances to animate nature in these inanimate things will see in it a fair likeness to some other bird, indeed a much closer resemblance than can be traced in the Espiritu Santo, the "dove plant" of the people of Panama. Take, for instance, the central petal on the left-hand flower on our plate. The anthers might represent a spreading, feathery tail; the petal, the back; the two sepals, a pair of wings; and the long nectary, terminating in a point, the neck and small head.

Some of the poets have dedicated the Columbine to folly; but there is nothing known, either in legend or in history, which couples the name with it, nor is there anything suggestive of such a sentiment in the plant itself. In some passages of an old play by Chapman, written about the year 1600, called "All Fools," and referred to by Mr. Ellacombe in the "Garden," there occurs this passage: "What's that - a Columbine ? No ! that thankless flower grows not in my garden."

But in what particular respect it is supposed to have committed the folly of being thankless does not appear. Another old-time poet, Browne, tasks it with "desertion": " The Columbine in tawny often taken, Is then ascribed to such as are forsaken."

In this case it is probable that tawny varieties were seldom seen; and when one did appear, it seemed all alone, deserted, as it were, by its dove-colored friends, and therefore those " who loved to talk in flowers" might find in this exceptional color an eloquent speaker.

Ophelia remarks in "Hamlet,"

"There 's fennel for you, and Columbines," and in this might have implied both folly and desertion. It is remarkable that with so extensive an association of this pretty flower with these unpleasant ideas, it has been impossible so far to find any clew to their origin.

The Columbines afford a great deal of interest to those who are fond of studying the laws of plant life. There is a wide range of varying color and form among them, and yet they seem so nearly related that botanists have great difficulty in deciding on the characters which are to define the species. There is, indeed, a suspicion among some of them that they are all merely varieties; that is to say, departures, at no very distant date, from one primordial form. In cultivation Mr. Josiah Hoopes, of West Chester, finds that the European species and those of America readily intermix when growing near each other, the pollen being carried to and fro, either by insect aid or by wind; and some botanists contend that the sweet liquid in the nectaries is secreted by the plant for the especial purpose of inducing insect agency in cross-fertilization. The ease with which the varieties or species break up when near each other in this way is the more remarkable from the fact that in their native places of growth each kind is particularly true to a uniform type, variations being rarely met with.

Since the introduction of the Golden Columbine into England it has been taken in hand by the hybridizers, and it is reported that many beautiful varieties have been raised in this way. It is not too much to expect that in time we shall have as many pretty garden varieties of Columbines as there are varieties of Dahlias or Chrysanthemums; for, besides the numerous shades of color which will arise from the mixture of yellow with the various colors already existing in English gardens, we may also look for flowers with an increase in the number of their petals, or, as it is technically called, of different degrees of doubleness, as the anthers very readily turn to petals in our flower.

The Golden Columbine continues in flower longer than any other species we have in cultivation. It is easily raised from seeds and by dividing the roots. The seeds should be sown as soon as ripe, when many of the plants will bloom the next year. If the seeds are not sown till spring the plants never flower till the year following.