Columbine – also known as Aquilegia
The purple wildflower common columbine grows up to 100cm tall and has bell-shaped flowers which bloom on long stems in early summer. When in flower, the plant is striking and can be seen from some distance away.
This wildflower grows all over the United Kingdom. The Latin name is Aquilegia vulgaris and it is also known as Granny’s Bonnet or the American Bluebell. Along the dark red or purple stems are three groups of three leaves.
This plant grows particularly well on fens, woodland areas, cottage gardens and damp places, but it has adapted to grow in domestic gardens as well.
The aquilegia is a member of the Ranunculaceae family and there are many different colour variations including blue, pink, yellow, white and purple. There are also delicate bi-coloured flowers which are really striking and a treat for the eyes. The British native species is the Aquilegia vulgaris and the flowers are usually purple, although there are some which have pink and white blooms. The bees love these flowers, in fact the columbine is on the RHS Perfect for Pollinators list of wildflowers. Grow these in your garden, and you’ll be helping the bee population expand and develop.
To make planting easy, choose a Meadowmat for cottage gardens and have a patch of colourful and charming wildflowers in no time at all.
Folklore surrounding Aquilegia
There are lots of tales and some folklore associated with Aquilegia vulgaris. The Latin name means ‘like an eagle’ and this comes from the talon-like spurs the flower produces. This plant has been associated with Freya, Norse goddess of love and fertility. She was later adopted by Christianity as well. The number of leaves, flowers and petals (3, 5 and 7) are also linked with the Holy Trinity. Shakespeare used the flower as well – Hamlet’s Ophelia gives a bouquet containing columbines to King Claudius, as a symbol of his infidelity.
Medicinal uses for Aquilegia or Columbine
The common columbine is edible and the purple wildflowers are used in salads and as a tea substitute. The plant is often thought of as poisonous, but a large amount of leaves must be consumed for there to be any ill affects. The plant is used in herbal medicine as a diuretic and as an astringent, but is not one of the commonly used plants. The seeds, when dried and crushed into a powder, can be used as a head lice treatment.