Columbine Aquilegia vulgaris

Status Green - Least concern
Best Time to See May, June
Colour Blue
Habitat Woodland, Grassland

A wild flower with a sacred reputation - whether to Venus (it was allegedly used to attract potential partners) or in Christian carvings.

Columbine is a tall, branching plant with large, distinctive flowers, usually blue or violet-blue. It was a favourite of cottage gardens although lived as a wildflower on these shores before. Its leaves, by comparison are dull-green, comprising of three rounded leaflets on stalks.


Widespread throughout Britain, especially in the west and south of England and Wales.


A plant of damp habitats including woodlands, grassland and fens on calcareous soils.

Best time to see

Flowers from May to June.


Columbine is an uncommon but widespread native plant in Britain. Its distribution is stable, but this is uncertain, because a large number of garden escapes have become confused with truly wild populations. Lack of management poses a threat to some populations.

Key threats

Loss of damp habitats from drainage and abandonment. Pollution from intensive agriculture.

Did you know?

The petals, when looked at from the base, are said to look like five doves sat in a ring and the name columbine actually derives from 'columba' meaning 'dove'. As such, it was a popular choice to put in church carvings.

There are more bird associations since the Latin name, Aquilegia, is derived from aquila meaning eagle owing to an apparent similarity between the petals and eagles' wings.

In medieval times, columbine was apparently thought to be eaten by lions - rubbing the flower on your hands thus gave you a lion's courage!

Common names include Granny's bonnet and Granny's nightcap.