There is probably nothing else in the world so exhilarating as a breath of pure, woodsy, spring atmosphere on a balmy day during the blithesome month of May, when everything out-of-doors is stretching and preparing once more for the good old summer time. Thus sing the poets, and it is especially true when one is privileged to nestle in admiration among the dried leaves and rocks beside the Wild Columbine, for this exquisite flower possesses such an unusually charming and vigorous air at this time that, altogether, it warms the heart, quickens the pulse, and thrills the beholder with a genuine glow of pleasure and happiness. Unfortunately, however, the Columbines are becoming more exclusive each year, owing to the great temptation one experiences to pluck them, and to the still greater yielding to this temptation by careless persons who roam the woods in the springtime, not to admire and study Nature, but to gather wild flowers thoughtlessly and without discretion for the mere sake of a bouquet. From the very nature of their surroundings, these plants are not always deeply and strongly rooted and as their stems are firm and wiry, the entire plant is likely to be uprooted with the flower when it is roughly plucked, and then, of course, it is left to perish. The early wild flowers seem to have selected the Columbines for their reception committee, and to have stationed them along the rocky balconies of woodland ridges during their spring festival, to extend a hearty welcome to all strangers who happen to pass within nodding distance of their abode. If this should be true of the Columbines, it is certain that they fulfil their social obligation gracefully and without fear or favour, greeting old friends and acquaintances here and there with cheerful nods and bows, or courtesying with becoming dignity, this way or that, to new callers, as occasion requires. They seem tireless in their delightful efforts to make one feel at home, and they are always found extending the right hand of good-fellowship to all visitors alike. Perhaps this has some bearing on the recent discussion regarding the selection of the Columbine for our national flower, for we know that Uncle Sam has always welcomed the immigrants from every clime with the same impartial hospitality and goodwill. Popularly the common name, Columbine, is not far removed from Columbia, the Goddess of Liberty and "the gem of the ocean," when standing for freedom and justice. Columbine is derived from the Latin, columba - a dove. Dr. Prior likens the resemblance of its spurs to the heads of pigeons in a ring around a dish, which was a favourite device of ancient artists. The national flower sympathizers, however, apply the dove significance to our olive branch of peace, with the long spurs imitating the horn of plenty and the liberty cap. There is some uncertainty regarding the meaning of the scientific name. One account states that it is from aquilegus, or water drawing, while another says that it is aquila, an eagle, and that the five long pointed spurs of the flower resemble the talons of this bird. And here again is seen the application of the emblem of our glorious country in a national flower. Stretching the imagination still further, the long red spurs are said to resemble the red stripes of "Old Glory," and that our national colours are represented in red, white and blue flowered species occuring in different parts of the country. It is the state flower of Colorado. It will be recalled that Columbine was also the name of Harlequin's sweetheart in pantomime. The dangling buds are strongly suggestive of old-fashioned drop earrings. On account of the nectar contained in the spurs, the flowers are especially attractive to humming birds, and they are often found hovering above them.
WILD COLUMBINE. Aquilegia canadensis.
The Wild Columbine loves to frequent the sunny, rocky slopes and ledges in open woods where the soil is sparse and well drained. It often prospers with barely sufficient earth to cover its roots, and causes one to wonder how it manages to keep from perishing altogether during the extended dry spells of summer and fall. The flowers are scarlet, with yellow linings. They are conspicuously large and showy, and hang, nodding upside down, from fine threadlike stems. They vary greatly, measuring from one to two inches long, and are rather bulky. The five petals are narrow and cone-shaped, and taper sharply to a thickened, rounded point, forming the upright and nearly straight spurs. They are united below by five curved and flaring sepals, which alternate with the tubes, and when viewed from beneath, give the face of the flower a distinct star-shape. The numerous, yellow-tipped stamens and fine slender pistils project, tassel-like, below the pure yellow corolla. As the seed pod ripens, it assumes an upright position on stem. The lower leaves are compound and divided two or three times. Each leaflet has three or more lobes with irregular, rounded notches. Their basal leaves are borne on long, slender stems which rise direct from the roots, and in the spring they form thick, rounded tufts. The upper leaflets are variously shaped and notched, generally rounded, and unite with the stalk at the branching joints. They are thin in texture; light green above, and whitish underneath. The plant grows from one to two feet in height. The long, slender, branching stalk is generally smooth and slightly angular. The colour is green, usually deeply stained with purple. The Wild Columbine is found from Nova Scotia to the Northwest Territory and south to Florida and Texas from April to July. During my early school days, when "Read-in' and 'rit-in' and 'rith-me-tic Taught to the tune of a hick-ry stick." was a serious reality, most every boy and girl knew the Columbine better as the "Honeysuckle," and acquired the habit of biting into the ends of the spurs and sucking out the sweet nectar. The Columbine was first introduced into England to decorate the gardens of Hampton Court during the reign of Charles I., having been sent from the Virginia Colony by a young botanist to Tradescant, gardener and herbalist to the King.
The Blue, or Small-flowered Columbine, A. brevistyla, is a much smaller species, bluish or sometimes creamy white in colour, with shorter, incurving spurs. The stamens and pistils rarely protrude, and the flower is more compact. It is found throughout the Northwest Territory to South Dakota.