Herbaceous, perennial plants of woodlands, often hanging from cliffs. Flowers single on long stems, with a distinctive shape, the 5 petals forming elongate, hollow, red spurs containing nectar; the 5 sepals are leaflike, attached between the petals, light yellow. The numerous stamens extend below the flower. Blooms April–July. Leaves: a few basal, the others cauline (along the stem), both on long petioles, 3-divided with deep lobes, bluish green.
Ranunculaceae (crowfoots; buttercups)
Height: to 2 feet.
Where To Find
Statewide, except in the Southeast Lowlands.
Occurs on rock ledges, on rocky slopes in woods, in ravines, and on bluffs, often in shaded locations. Easy to propagate from its many seeds, this columbine is a long-lived garden plant that naturalizes and can even be somewhat weedy if you do not deadhead spent flowers. It attracts hummingbirds. It hybridizes readily with other columbines, creating plants with combinations of traits.
Today, columbines are favorites of gardeners, but in the past, Native Americans used these (toxic!) plants for various medicinal purposes. Some used them as a love potion, rubbing the ground seeds on their palms before grasping the hands of their beloved or of people they wished to persuade.
Flowers with such deep nectaries need pollinators with long tongues—enter the hummingbirds! Columbines begin blooming about the same time hummingbirds migrate back to our state in spring. Other pollinators include butterflies and moths, particularly the hummingbird moth.
Toronto Springs Conservation Area is located in Camden County, five miles east of Montreal on Route E, then one mile east on Route A, which forms most of the southern boundary of the area.
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!