Stems 15-80 cm. Basal leaves (1-)2(-3)×-ternately compound, 9-37 cm, much shorter than stems; leaflets green adaxially, to 13-42(-61) mm, not viscid; primary petiolules (10-)20-70 mm (leaflets not crowded), glabrous or occasionally pilose. Flowers erect; sepals perpendicular to floral axis, white, blue, or sometimes pink, elliptic-ovate to lance-ovate, 26-51 × 8-23 mm, apex obtuse to acute or acuminate; petals: spurs white, blue, or sometimes pink, straight, ± parallel or divergent, 28-72 mm, slender, evenly tapered from base, blades white, oblong or spatulate, 13-28 × 5-14 mm; stamens 13-24 mm. Follicles 20-30 mm; beak 8-12 mm.
w North America, Mexico.
Varieties 4 (4 in the flora).
Aquilegia coerulea shows considerable geographic variation in flower color and in size of different floral organs, reflecting adaptation to different pollinators in different parts of its range (R. B. Miller 1981). Four weakly differentiated varieties are recognized.
Aquilegia coerulea var. coerulea and A. coerulea var. ochroleuca intergrade to some extent; northwestern populations of var. coerulea often contain individuals with pale flowers, and eastern populations of var. ochroleuca often contain blue-flowered plants.
The Gosivte tribe chewed the seeds of Aquilegia coerulea or used an infusion made from the roots to treat abdominal pains or as a panacea (D. E. Moerman 1986).
Most authors have spelled the epithet "caerulea"; "coerulea" is the original spelling.
Columbine (as Aquilegia caerulea) is the state flower of Colorado.
|1||Petal blades 13–17 mm.||Aquilegia coerulea var. alpina|
|1||Petal blades 19–28 mm.||> 2|
|2||Sepals medium to deep blue.||Aquilegia coerulea var. coerulea|
|2||Sepals white, pale blue, or pink.||> 3|
|3||Spurs 36–54 mm (means of populations 40–48 mm); stamens 13–18 mm; Utah to Nevada, Montana.||Aquilegia coerulea var. ochroleuca|
|3||Spurs 45–72 mm (means of populations 50–58 mm); stamens 18–24 mm; Utah, Arizona.||Aquilegia coerulea var. pinetorum|