Columbine is named for two birds - for Columba, the dove, from a fancied resemblance of the flower to five doves grouped in a circle, and for Aquila, the eagle, from some fancied resemblance of the flower to some part of the. eagle. Almost as if they had wings, the flowers of the columbine are lightly poised on thin stems so that they dangle in graceful curves in the spring woods. No other flower can possibly be mistaken for columbine; there is only one species in Illinois, the one with coral-red and gold blossoms which come in May to feed the hummingbirds.
Aquilegia canadensis L.
April - May Roadsides, woods.
Columbine is one of the important hummingbird flowers. In these honey-horns the long beak and longer tongue of the hummer thrust deeply and garner nectar and any tiny insects which have been attracted there, too. Since hummingbirds seem to prefer red or orange flowers with trumpets, the columbine is peculiarly fitted for their requirements. In the hilly, sandy woods where columbine grows tall, there are almost always several hummingbirds Hashing about on wings that whir almost too fast to be seen. And usually, in one of the tall oaks, there may be a tiny nest where the little green female has laid two white eggs no bigger than navy beans. And as often as not. the woods which support the deep rooted, perennial columbine may. in summer, have the shallow-rooted juicy-stemmed, annual jewel weed which is orange and red and trumpeted, to feed the hummingbirds when columbine is out of bloom.
Columbine has a basal tuft of deeply lobed, grey-green leaves from which rise the tall, fibrous flower stems with leaves in groups along it; the flowers on thin stems spring from the top and axils of the leaves.