Aquilegia grahamii

Submitted by McGregorUS on

This is just such a beautiful little plant that I felt it should open up the Aquilegia board. Grown from seed a while ago and at the moment I can't find much sign of it on this bed (apart from the label) so I hope that its not disappeared during the snow. Last year it was still there as seedlings but nothing flowering.


Submitted by Hoy on Mon, 03/01/2010 - 12:16

What a little beauty! Hope you will see it again.

Submitted by Mark McD on Mon, 03/01/2010 - 14:16

I wouldn't mind having that little treasure seeding around my garden.  I like the red stems too.

Submitted by Boland on Sat, 03/06/2010 - 13:39

I have several look-alikes to this one but none this small....I will have to keep an eye out for it.

Submitted by McGregorUS on Mon, 03/15/2010 - 03:44

On my hands and knees yesterday I found four very small plants still going so if they flower I will collect seed this year.

Submitted by penstemon on Fri, 07/02/2010 - 19:36

I have this little columbine too. It seeds around a bit. Okay, a lot.
It is definitely not Aquilegia grahamii, though.

Submitted by penstemon on Fri, 07/02/2010 - 20:58

Here's more on Aquilegia grahamii Welsh & Goodrich. "Plants 2.5-6dm tall, stems copiously to rather sparingly glandular and with adhering sand grains here and there throughout .... sepals horizontally spreading, 11-14mm long, red-fuchsia..." etc.
This is from the original description by Welsh in Rhodora, Vol 95, 1993. Italics mine.
The plants in cultivation are glabrous and the sepals are erect, and, of course, are tiny, or at least nowhere near 25cm tall. They rank pretty high on the cuteness scale. Could be a new species (oh, when you talk about Aquilegia, you write it as "species") or a hybrid, but not involving A. grahamii.

"Forgive the lateness of my reply."

Submitted by Mark McD on Sat, 07/03/2010 - 08:45

Ok folks, I have done some armchair botanizing to find pertinent links.  So here are links to information, distribution maps, photos, and line drawings of Aquilegia grahamii.  While the description of the flowers says "sepals horizontally spreading", it appears there is some leeway in that description covering various angles of spreading :D, because the photos taken of the site show flowers with spreading yet not strictly perpendicularly arranged sepals.  I think the key characteristic here is the leaves are copiously villous-glandular, the stems variably so, this characteristic not evident in the original photo posted here.

When one takes into account all of these dwarf red and yellow Western American aquilegia species, I would love to see botanists apply the delineation of species into a single key :o  To give further understanding of more dwarf red and yellow Western American columbines, I included links to other narrow endemics in Utah.

USDA page on A. grahamii:

US Forest Service page on A. grahamii:

PDF with detailed line drawing on A. grahamii:

in habitat photo of A. grahamii

closeup of A. grahamii flower

More rare narrow-endemic species in Utah:
A. formosa var. fosteri

A. flavescens var. rubicunda

A. loriae (Lori's columbine)

Can't even find photos or info on two other endemics, A. desolaticola and A. holmgrenii.
Want to venture a guess that they are red and yellow ;D

Submitted by penstemon on Sat, 07/03/2010 - 15:26

The pictures look like the plants in the trade, except that those plants are glabrous, much smaller than the description (10 cm not 25 cm as the minimum height given by Welsh).
I think these are hybrids. The little one supposedly came from seed collected, well, somewhere. Since being villous or glabrous would be a distinction that would create another "species", it makes a difference that the plants in the trade aren't sticky. I would notice it at this time of year when the cottonwood cotton is flying ....
Aquilegia grahamii equates to the entry for A. formosa in Uinta Basin Flora.
The taxonomy of Aquilegia in Utah is a matter of some controversy.

Submitted by McGregorUS on Sat, 07/24/2010 - 11:55


Your comments are really interesting - my plants (the ones that started all this) are certainly not sticky. The leaves are distinctly glabrous.

Obviously things in Aquilegia have moved on since you published your book!

By the way it was really good to meet you and see your garden when it was open for the Annual tend days ago.