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What Is the State Flower of Colorado? Characteristics & History

Rocky Mountain Columbine

The state of Colorado chose a floral emblem in 1899, which stays protected and honored to this day. The Colorado blue columbine is a genuinely unique flower that perfectly depicts Colorado’s cultural and historical history. The rich and stunning colors of the flower represent the state and all it has to offer, such as the snowy mountain scenery, the bright blue skies, and the historical gold mining industry.

While it may be clear why this wonderful flower became the floral emblem of Colorado, the story behind it is also fascinating. Read on below to learn about the characteristics of the blue columbine and why the state chose this flower in particular.

garden flower divider Colorado Blue Columbine Characteristics

Rocky Mountain Columbine
Image By: Pixabay
  • Botanical name: Aquilegia coerulea
  • Common names: Colorado Blue Columbine, White and Lavander Columbine, Rocky Mountain Columbine
  • Color: Blue, white
  • Height: 7.9 to 23.6 inches
  • Plant type: Perennial
  • USDA hardiness zones: 3–9
  • Soil requirement: Moist and rocky soil
  • Sun requirement: Full shade


The Colorado blue columbine is a clump-forming evergreen plant. There are usually five flowers and five sepals that extend out from the flower. The bi-colored petals make this plant easily recognizable in nature—the sepals and the petals are usually colored in entirely different shades. The petals and sepals on columbines range in color, although the blue columbine always has blue sepals.

One benefit of blue columbines is that they produce nectar for hummingbirds and various insects.

Distribution and Habitat

Blue columbines can be found in North America, especially in the Rocky Mountains. Its habitat extends from Montana to New Mexico and west to Arizona. It prefers to grow om higher elevations—from 6,900 feet to 12,100 feet.

This plant thrives in moist, shady areas and light forests such as poplar forests. They enjoy woodlands and mountain meadows with rocky soil.

Plant Care

To grow a healthy and thriving Colorado blue columbine in your garden, you will need to provide it with all the requirements to resemble its natural habitat best. This plant prefers low exposure to direct sunlight, so it would be best to plant it in partial or even full shade. They enjoy loose, humus-rich grounds and moist places with rocky soils. During warmer days, the blue columbine needs regular watering; aside from that, they don’t require excessive maintenance, and once established, they can become self-sufficient.

Diseases and Pests

The most common pest the Colorado blue columbine must deal with is the columbine sawfly. This columbine plant is susceptible to aphid infestations and columbine leafminers when grown in open areas. You can catch a glimpse of their caterpillars throughout May and June.

garden flower divider

The History and Discovery of the Colorado Blue Columbine

In 1820, a hiker discovered the Colorado blue columbine on Pike’s Peak. This stunning flower got its name from its distinctive appearance. The scientific name for Colorado blue columbine is Aquilegia coerulea, which translates to ‘’eagle’’, referring to the spurs at the base resembling claws. Columbine comes from Latin and translates to ‘’dove,’’ which refers to the beautiful creamy white petals that resemble five doves clustered together.

It is known that the Native Americans used blue columbine as an herbal remedy. Due to its anti-inflammatory compounds, it was used as a pain reliever. It also had remarkable effects on the skin, curing irritation from poison ivy and other plant-derived rashes. For respiratory problems, crushing the root and mixing it with water proved to be an excellent remedy that would reduce the irritation and speed up the healing process.

Becoming the State Flower of Colorado

In 1899 the school children of Colorado were assigned to vote for the state’s flower. Out of 22.316 children that voted, 14,472 children voted for the Colorado blue columbine. Some believe that the reason behind this decision was to save the blue columbine from extinction. Once the blue columbine became the state’s floral emblem, it perfectly symbolized the state of Colorado and its uniqueness. The colors on the blue columbine’s flowers represented the features of Colorado; the blue symbolized the clear skies above Colorado, the white signified the distinctive snow-capped mountains, and the yellow symbolized the gold mining industry of Colorado.

In 1925 General Assembly made a few laws to protect their state flower. Currently, it is prohibited to pick up columbines in open areas and the wilderness, and doing so comes with a $5 to $50 fine. The state is doing everything to prevent the flower from going extinct, so it is illegal to uproot the plant or dig it up on public land.

The flower received even more notoriety when the national song of Colorado became ‘’ Where the Columbines Grow.’’

garden flower divider Final Thoughts

There are many interesting facts about the state of Colorado and its floral emblem. Once you learn that the school children of Colorado voted for this flower, it may become an even more magical plant. Protecting the state flower is essential, which is why the state prohibited uprooting the plant. This may be the crucial step in stopping the extinction of the plant and protecting it in every way possible.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay


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