Columbines are a pretty flower that gets between two and three feet tall in the correct growing conditions. It comes in a host of colors, and the various columbine flower meanings include ascension, endurance, good fortune, risk-taking, peace, and faith. We want you to get a good understanding of the Columbine flower, so we’re going to talk about the color meanings, symbolism, history, mythology and folklore, and much more below.
Columbine flowers are pretty, unique-looking additions to your garden, and they have several meanings behind them.
Some native Californians have been rumored to gather the young leaves of the crimson columbine flower and boil them before they ate them. Other groups used the seeds, roots, and leaves for a range of medicinal purposes, including grinding the toxic seeds down into a thick paste and using it to treat head lice. However, this is one plant family that you want to avoid ingesting at all costs. The reason for this is that nearly all of the members of this plant family are highly poisonous if you eat them, so this makes it dangerous to have round livestock, pets, or kids.
Columbine Flowers – Quick Overview
Carl Linnaeus was a Swedish botanist who created the botanical Latin names for the Columbine flower during the 18th century. The Latin name for this plant genus is aquila, and it translates to Eagle in English. He picked this name for the genus because the five curled flower petals on this plant looks a little like an eagle’s claw. Also, most of the original Columbine flower meanings and symbolism surrounding this plant started with the European species.
There are roughly 100 species of Columbine flower, and the common European Columbine flower (Aquilegia vulgaris), is hardy in zones three to eight. It produces blue blooms, and it will cross-pollinate with other Columbine flower species to produce pink, white, purple, or wine-red double or single hybrids. Not every flower the hybrid produces has the five distinctive spurs that you’ll find on blue columbines growing in the wild.
A lot of the columbines in North America, including Aquilegia formosa and Aquilegia canadensis have yellow and red flowers. However, you can find Aquilegia micrantha in several colors, including yellow, cream, blue, pink, or multicolored. The small flowers the columbine produces are some of the best cut flowers you can get and use in elegant flower arrangements and bouquets.
Columbine Flower History and Literary References
The Columbine flower meaning wasn’t very favorable in England back when Shakespeare was alive. Generally speaking, they represented a lack of trustworthiness. George Chapman was a dramatist and poet who claimed that this flower represented ingratitude. He went on to state, “No, I don’t have that thankless flower in my garden.”
William Browne was a poet in the same time period who thought that the Columbine flower symbolized a neglected or lost love. He described it as, “The columbine is tawny taken, Is thus ascribed to such as are forsaken.”
Shakespeare went on to mention the Columbine flower in the comedy Love’s Labor Lost and in the more well-known Hamlet. Even though you can find a handful of other interpretations, most people assume that the Columbine flower meaning for Shakespeare is infidelity and adultery. In Hamlet’s Act IV, Ophelia, who is supposedly insane at this point, tosses out these flowers at the court and tells King Claudius, “There’s fennel and columbines for you.”
Ophelia is risking her life by bringing this plant to the king due to their symbolism. Fennel was, at the time, a symbol of lattery. However, giving the king this plant was widely considered to be a sexual dig because it wilted right after you picked it. The Columbines were another dig at the king as they represent folly and adultery.
This flower originated in Asia before spreading to the rest of the world. Also, the Columbine flower is extremely drought-resistant due to the long taproots it forms. While this is great for helping it survive if you forget to water it, these long taproots also make it very difficult to transplant.
The Native Americans used the Columbine flower for many natural remedies. They used a tea infused with the Columbine flower to help heal everything from poison ivy pain to fevers. The Native Americans also used the flowers of various Columbine species as a seasoning mixed with other leafy greens. If you ingested them in moderate amounts, these plants were considered to be harmless and exceedingly sweet.
Although columbines have a long history of medicinal use, it’s not recommended that you consume them, even after boiling them, due to the high possibility of columbine poisoning.
The roots and seeds of this plant, on the other end of the spectrum, are extremely dangerous as they contain cardiogenic chemicals that, when you eat them, can cause heart palpitations and acute gastroenteritis. Due to the extremely toxicity of this plant, considering any medicinal uses for it today is dangerous, and poisoning by Columbines can be fatal.
This flower has played a huge role in evolutionary research. The Sierra Columbine and the red one have both evolved to use a specific pollinator. Hummingbirds and bees flock to the red columbine while the Sierra columbine draws hawkmoths. Because genetics control the flower orientation and color, this pollination syndrome ensures that reproductive isolation happens, and this leads to speciation. Also, the columbine flower has developed spurs tailored to attract pollinators in their native growing habit by offering different lengths. Some spurs are thicker than others, and some are longer.
Aquilegia caerulea is close to the Rocky Mountain area of Colorado, and a hiker by the name of Edwin James found this species in 1820 while he was on a hike. In 1915, Colorado designated the Columbine flower as the state flower, and its song was adopted as the state song. In 1891, Colorado school children voted the Columbine as Colorado’s favorite flower. The Rocky Mountain Columbine got 14,472 votes out of the total 22,316 votes submitted.
In 1925, the General Assembly passed a law that protects the Columbine as a state flower as it’s delicate and rare. The law made it illegal for anyone to uproot this plant on state land, and there is a 25 bud and blossom limit you can pick a day. One private land, you can’t pick this plant without the express permission of the landowner.
Columbine Flower Meaning – Colors
When many people think of the Columbine flower, they usually picture white or lavender petals. However, they come in a broad range of shades, including yellow, pink, purple, and red. The following Columbine flower meanings are broken down by category, and they include:
The pink Columbine flower meaning is platonic love, like the love you have for friends and family members. They make nice gifts for the younger people in your life who are going through a spiritual passage rite.
Pink columbines tend to be the softer colors with hints of white.
Purple and Lavender
Lavender and deep purple Columbine flower meanings include expanded consciousness and spiritual evolution. They are very closely linked to your seventh chakra, and this rules your super-conscious. Also, purple columbine flowers symbolize peace and how you may have to sacrifice to get that peace. Purple is special in the fact that it combines the warmth of the color red and blue’s coolness. So, the purple columbine flower meaning is blending differences to reach harmony.
Purple and lavender are the most common colors for columbines, and they come in several hues.
You can find columbine flowers in orange and red colors. These columbine flower meanings include romance, passion, and energy. They can also mean prosperity. You can plant this color columbine to bring more energy and passion into your life, and they can also help fortify these things to make you feel more secure. They’re a very pretty gift for a romantic partner.
Red is a passionate color that represents love and romance, so it makes sense that red columbine meaning is for lovers and makes a bold statement.
Yellow columbine flower meanings are good luck regarding financial matters and happiness. They also symbolize the rewards you get from working hard to reach your goals.
Bright and sunny yellow columbines are a fantastic sign of spring, and they stand out in your flower beds or cut flower arrangements.
The white columbine flower meaning includes innocence and purity. Just like the purple columbine flower meaning, it also symbolizes spiritual enlightenment. Also, just like the white butterfly does in some cultures, a white columbine flower symbolizes messages from loved ones who have passed on and angels.
White columbines represent purity and innocence, and they stand out against the darker green foliage in your garden.
Columbine Flower Meaning – Symbolism
You can find columbines growing in a broad range of environments throughout the Northern Hemisphere, from the high mountains to woodlands or meadows or grasslands. While this isn’t a very common flower, many people adore how they look when they spot them in wild alpine settings. Many columbine flower meanings can inspire you to reach lofty heights, and they include but are not limited to:
- Good Fortune
In the Rocky Mountains, it’s common to find this flower growing almost to the timberline, or at elevations as high as 9,000 feet. Because they’re capable of growing and thriving at high elevations, they are aspiration symbols. With their star-like, pointed outer petals, this plant reminds you to keep reaching for the stars.
Columbines are very hardy flowers that can grow well in a huge range of adverse conditions. So, they’re great symbols of perseverance and endurance. Just like a mountain climber making an ascent, this flower will overcome virtually any obstacle. Yet, despite being able to survive these hardships, the flower has a very delicate beauty. So, this flower is a very powerful reminder to never let any challenge you go through in life make you jaded or cynical. Despite any hardships, Columbine never falters.
It may not surprise you to find out that the Columbine flower meanings is faith, as if you taking a leap of faith. As an alpine flower, this plant has strong ties to spiritual ascension. For many people, these concepts that aren’t rooted in a material word or scientifically proven can make you feel uncomfortable. The Columbine flower reminds you that there is a lot more going on than what you can reach out and touch or see in the physical realm. This faith can help to keep you going despite all odds in times of doubt.
As the Columbine flower is the state flower of Colorado, it’s no surprise to find that it’s native to the Rocky Mountains. The blue petals on most native Columbines make a beautiful state symbol, and it reminds people of the clear blue skies above the Rockies and the white petals remind you of the snow-capped mountains. Also, the gold stamens and pistils in the center of this flower bring memories of the gold that was found in this region during the Gold Rush. So, it makes sense that one of the more popular columbine flower meanings is prosperity and good fortune.
Many cultures believe that columbine flower meanings stretch to inviting in good fortune, so many people use them for ritual purposes around significant days or holidays.
Some people compare this plant to a dove on both a figurative and physical level. The two are a common meaning as one of the Columbine flower meanings is peace.
Risk taking is a popular columbine flower meaning. This type of flower is a “nothing ventured, nothing gained” type. If you look at tarot cards, the columbine has strong ties to the Fool card. Some historians actually claim that the columbine’s association with the Fool or foolishness is due to the flower’s shape as it can mimic the look of a court jester’s hat.
However, when you look at Tarot, the Fool card has a much deeper meaning than senselessness. While the image of the fool in tarot readings is usually depicted of a careless young man with his head in the clouds walking off the cliff’s edge, he has a small dog beside him. The dog works as his protector, warning him so he doesn’t make mistakes. Even though the Fool is a dreamer and has his head in the clouds most of the time, he is protected. Like the Fool, this plant is a symbol for the thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies that believe that if you’re not living on the edge, you’re not really living.
Columbine Flower Meaning – Folklore and Mythology
The columbine flower makes an appearance in folklore and mythology in several different cultures. These cultures and the columbine flower meaning in each one include:
Celtic Columbine Flower Meanings
The ancient celts believed that butterflies were the intermediaries between the spirit and material worlds. They also believed that columbine flowers were responsible for opening doors to other worlds beyond Earth.
Christianity Columbine Flower Meanings
Columbine flowers also make a short appearance in several Christian stories. Many believe that this plant represents the seven gifts from the Holy Spirit, and these gifts include:
- Fear of the Lord
During the Renaissance period, the columbine flower meaning symbolized the Virgin Mary’s sorrows. Also, if you look in Christian mythology, you’ll find that it has links with the dove as both of these things are symbolizations of the Holy Spirit.
Columbines aren’t hugely represented in Christinanity, but they do appear and make a strong statement with their imagery.
Germanic Folklore Columbine Flower Meanings
When it comes to the columbine flower meaning in Germanic folklore, you want to look at ancient Austria. Here, they used this flower to symbolize five doves in a circle. The doves were representations of God at peace.
Greek Mythology Columbine Flower Meanings
In Norse mythology, the columbine flower meaning has ties to the goddess Freya, and it’s also a symbol for Aphrodite, and she was the goddess of love in ancient Greece.
Norse Mythology Columbine Flower Meanings
In Nordic mythology, the columbine flower meaning was linked to Freya, the fertility goddess. The Vikings considered them to be aphrodisiacs. So, giving this type of flower to someone you were courting in ancient Nordic cultures could seem very forward, especially if you just started the courting process. Columbines are toxic if you eat them raw, but the Vikings would boil them to help remove the poison from the plant.
Spiritual Columbine Flower Meanings
On a spiritual level, the columbine flower meaning means reaching for an elevated level of consciousness. It’s a flower that is popular for a spiritual seeker, for one who is willing to withstand studying to get a better understanding of difficult spiritual philosophies. This flower also symbolizes having faith in your angels and God.
Spirit Animal Symbolism and Columbine Flowers
You can extend your columbine flower meanings to certain insects and wild animals. These symbiosis and traits include:
Bees, Butterflies, and Hummingbirds
Flowers and butterflies have co-evolved, and each relies on the other for energy and pollination. Hummingbirds and bees are attracted to this flower because of the nectar they produce. In fact, this flower has evolved to make it easier for pollinators to access this nectar. So, the pollinators get to the nectar and spread it to extend the plant’s reach. So, the columbine flower meaning has close ties to bees, butterflies, and hummingbird spirit animals.
As we touched on earlier, columbine flower meanings and symbolism extends to doves. In fact, the Latin name for this flower derives from Columbidae, and this is the scientific name for the bird family that includes pigeons and doves.
The Latin scientific name for the Columbine flower is Aquilegia, and this translates to “eagle.” The pointed petals the columbine flower produces reminded the person who named it of an eagle’s talon or claw. Also, the columbine shares traits with the eagle spirit animal, including faith or hope, a connection to the divine, and ascension.
The eagle is prominent in several cultures for being a symbol of power, and the petals on the columbine flower represent the claw.
The mountain goat shares synergies with the columbine flower as well. Both of their life forces showcase aspiration, endurance, and faith.
The hawk or Sphinx moth has connections with this flower because it is an important pollinator of certain species of this plant.
Interesting Facts About the Columbine Flower
There are several interesting facts surrounding this plant and the various columbine flower meanings. They include but are not limited to:
- Abundantly grown, both domesticated and wild, in the northern hemisphere
- At least 60 different species known at this point
- Colorado state flower
- Colors can include blue, purple, white, red, yellow, pink, and several different hues of these colors
- Flowers are sweet and edible, but the roots and seeds should be avoided as they are very toxic
- Hummingbirds are attracted to this flower as it produces larger amounts of nectar
Times You Can Offer the Columbine Flower
Now that you know the most popular columbine flower meanings, you should know when it is appropriate to offer this flower to someone or have it for an event. These occasions include:
- As a birth flower in a bouquet for the parents, especially in early June or May birthdays
- As a symbol of thanks for a colleague or friend for their constant support
- To give the push needed to see a project to the end
- To welcome spring
Columbine Flower Frequently Asked Questions
This flower isn’t nearly as popular as others, but some people do like growing it in their yards or gardens.
The most popular questions surrounding keeping this plant include:
1. Can you grow columbine indoors?
Columbine falls into the perennial flowering plant category, and it’s not a good choice to grow indoors. You can try growing it from seed inside and putting it in a sunny window, but it isn’t likely to bloom and it won’t live very long.
2. On average, how long can the columbine plant live?
This is generally considered to be a short-lived plant that has an average lifespan between three and four years at the most.
3. What’s the difference between columbine and columbine meadow rue?
Columbine meadow rue is classified as a herbaceous perennial that is in the buttercup or Ranunculaceae family. It’s native to central Asia and Europe. The foliage looks very similar to the columbine plant. However, the leaves of the Columbine meadow rue are greenish-gray and much more delicate. Columbine meadow rue also produces fluffy, cottony, long-lasting flower clusters in shades of purple, lilac, or white. Columbine is a five-petaled flower that have backward-extending, long spurs that give it a very distinctive, unique look.
The columbine flower meaning is varied, depending on the culture and color of the plant. You now know the most popular ones in different cultures, and you can use this guide to decide if you want to grow this plant in your yard or garden. If you do, you’ll get a very distinctive flower that attracts a lot of pollinators to the space.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.