E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Aquilegia formosa Fisch. ex DC.
Sitka columbine (Northern Anemone; red columbine; western columbine; Western pasqueflower)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Rod Innes  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #22808)

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Distribution of Aquilegia formosa
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Aquilegia formosa var. formosa

Species Information

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Perennial herb from a taprooted, usually branched, woody stem-base; stems erect, 15-100 cm tall, smooth below, sparsely hairy and smooth above especially in inflorescence.
Basal leaves 10-40 cm long (including long stalks), much shorter than stems, twice 3-parted, the first set of 3 stalks 16-95 mm long (the leaflets not crowded), smooth or long soft-hairy, each leaflet 14-68 mm long, 2- to 3-times shallowly to deeply lobed, thin, usually hairy and with a bloom beneath, not glandular; stem leaves few, shorter-stalked.
Inflorescence of several nodding to hanging flowers in a terminal cyme, the flowers 3-5 cm wide; bracts leaf-like but greatly reduced, unstalked; petals 5, distinct, the spurs red, knobbed, 13-21 mm long, stout, abruptly narrowed near middle, with straight tips, not curved in, the blades yellow, oblong, sometimes absent, to 6 mm long, 4-6 mm wide; sepals 5, pale to deep red, widely spreading, elliptic to lance-shaped, 10-26 mm long, 4-9 mm wide, tips pointed to sharp-pointed; stamens 12-17 mm long.
Follicles, 5, erect, egg-shaped, 15-25 (29) mm long, hairy; beaks 9-12 mm long; seeds black, egg-shaped, wrinkled and pebbled.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present from Summer to Fall
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Mesic to moist meadows, rocky slopes, thickets, clearings, roadsides and open forests in all zones except the alpine; common throughout BC; N to SW AK and S YT, E to SW AB and S to UT and CA.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Aquilegia formosa

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 5 1083 2089
Slope Gradient (%) 0 19 220
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 207 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 4 7
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(1), BWBS(23), CDF(1), CMA(1), CWH(56), ESSF(173), ICH(80), IDF(63), MH(3), MS(137), PP(4), SBPS(20), SBS(259), SWB(1)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-tolerant/intolerant, montane to subalpine, Western North American forb disĀ­tributed equally in the Pacific and Cordilleran regions. Occurs on fresh to very moist, nitrogen-rich soils within subalpine boreal, temperate, and cool mesothermal climates; its occurrence decreases with increasing elevation. Scattered in broad-leaved forests on flooded sites, often inhabits exposed mineral soils in early-seral communities on water-receiving sites. A nitrophytic species characteristic of Moder and Mull humus forms.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Aquilegia formosa var. communis Boivin
Aquilegia formosa var. fosteri Welsh
Aquilegia formosa var. hypolasia (Greene) Munz
Aquilegia formosa var. megalantha Boivin
Aquilegia formosa var. pauciflora (Greene) Boothman
Aquilegia formosa var. truncata (Fisch. & C.A. Mey.) Baker
Aquilegia formosa var. wawawensis (Payson) St. John
Aquilegia fosteri (S.L. Welsh) S.L. Welsh
Aquilegia mohavensis Munz
Aquilegia shockleyi Eastw.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References