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Aquilegia chrysantha A. Gray var. chrysantha

Golden columbine

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassMagnoliidaeIncludes magnolias, nutmeg, bay laurel, cinnamon, avocado, black pepper, and many others
OrderRanunculalesBasal (evolved earlier) eudicots, also called “true dicots”
FamilyRanunculaceaeButtercup family
GenusAquilegiaFrom Latin aquila, or “eagle,” for the flower’s resemblence to an eagle’s claw
Specieschrysantha“Marigold,” a reference to the yellow flowers
var.chrysantha“Marigold,” a reference to the yellow flowers

About plant names...

Columbines are members of the buttercup family. There are several yellow varieties that are native to a few southwestern states. There is some disagreement as to their common names, so we will have to rely on the scientific names:

Aquilegia chrysantha var. chrysanthaGolden columbine, golden spur columbine, canary columbine
Aquilegia chrysantha var. chaplineiChaplin's golden columbine
Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyanaHinkley's golden columbine, yellow columbine, Hinckley columbine
Aquilegia chrysantha var. rydbergiiRydberg's golden columbine
Aquilegia flavescensGolden columbine, yellow columbine
Aquilegia longissimaLongspur columbine

Identification: The spurs on the back of each flower are unique in shape. Flowers are about 2-3" (5-7.6 cm) in length and plants are 24-36" (60-91 cm) in height. They may be bright or pale yellow. Leaves are smooth and hairless. They prefer moist areas and medium sunlight, and are commonly found in canyons, like this one in the Sedona area of Arizona.

Aquilegia chrysantha (golden columbine)

Oak Creek Trail, AZ

Aquilegia chrysantha var. chaplinei has long spurs like longspur columbines, but it is rare, found only in some remote canyons in New Mexico.

Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana looks most like A. chrysantha var. chrysantha, but is somewhat paler in color, and is found only in Texas.

Aquilegia chrysantha var. rydbergii has somewhat shorter spurs, and is found in New Mexico and Texas.[1]

Aquilegia flavescens lacks the prominent spurs, and the flowers tip downward.

Aquilegia longissima have very long spurs.

It is common to see intermediate coloration as a result of natural hybridization, like this from Zion National Park:

Aquilegia chrysantha (golden columbine)

Many cultivated varieties of these beautiful flowers are available now.

Edibility: Poisonous. Skull & Crossbones I found conflicting information about edibility of columbines. The seeds and roots are highly poisonous, and the leaves of many other members of the buttercup family are poisonous. But one source says flowers of Aquilegia flavescens are sweet-tasting and edible, and can be added to salads.[2] Another source also says the flowers are safe in small quantities. Better to be safe than sorry though—I'm not putting them on my salad.

Online References:

The U.S. Forest Service Celebrating Wildflowers site

The USDA Plants Database



Niehaus, Theodore F., Ripper, Charles L., Savage, Virginia, Peterson Field Guides: Southwestern and Texas Wildflowers, Houghton Mifflin, 1984, p. 163

1This may be a normal variant of A. chrysantha and not a unique variety.



Aquilegia chrysantha var. chrysantha description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.

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Aquilegia chrysantha (golden columbine)

6/2/2009 · Zion National Park, Utah

Aquilegia chrysantha (golden columbine)

6/2/2009 · Zion National Park, Utah
≈ 4 × 2½' (1.3 × 0.8 m)

Aquilegia chrysantha (golden columbine)

5/23/2009 · West Fork of Oak Creek Trail, Ari­zona
≈ 28 × 26" (71 × 67 cm)

Aquilegia chrysantha (golden columbine)

5/23/2009 · West Fork of Oak Creek Trail, Ari­zona
≈ 4½ × 3" (11 × 7.9 cm)

Aquilegia chrysantha (golden columbine)

6/2/2009 · Zion National Park, Utah
≈ 3 × 2' (98 × 65 cm)


About this map...