Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana

Common Name: columbine 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Ranunculaceae
Native Range: Texas
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 1.50 to 2.50 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 2.50 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Attracts: Hummingbirds
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer


Best grown in organically rich, moist, sandy loams in light to moderate shade. Generally tolerates a wide range of soils as long as they are well-drained. Add sand to clay soils to improve drainage. This species tolerates heat and sun better than most other species in the genus, however. Remove flowering stems after bloom to encourage additional bloom. Keep soils uniformly moist after bloom to prolong attractive foliage appearance. When foliage depreciates, plants may be cut to the ground. Reseeds well in optimum growing conditions as long as flowers are not deadheaded.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Aquilegia chrysantha, commonly known as golden columbine, canary columbine or southwestern yellow columbine, is a bushy, clump-forming perennial that typically grows to 1-3’ (less frequently to 4’) tall. It is native to canyons in damp places from western Texas, southern New Mexico, southern Utah, and Arizona south into northern Mexico (Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Nuevo Leon), with a disjunct population in southern Colorado (Colorado plants have shorter spurs and are sometimes called Aquilegia chrysantha var. rydbergii).

Large bright yellow flowers (each to 3” long) bloom in early spring (March-early May). Each flower (to 3” long) has (a) five petals, with each petal having a short tube in front and a very distinctive, slender, tapered, downward-pointing, backward-projecting, straight to outward-curving spur, and (b) five pointed petaloid sepals which are longer than the blades of the petals but are lighter yellow in color. Flowers have a slight fragrance. Because of its unusually long spurs (to 3”), this species is frequently used as a parent in the hybridization of long-spurred hybrid columbines. Compound palmate basal leaves are mostly 3-ternate.

Golden columbine is a loose grower, but usually does not need support if given regular moisture during the growing season.

Var. hinckleyana is endemic only to Capote Falls, Sierra Vieja Mountains, Presidio County, Texas. It differs from the species by being a more compact plant (to 18-30” tall) whose flowers have much shorter spurs (to only 1 1/4” long). Basal green foliage with a bluish tinge is somewhat suggestive of meadow rue (Thalictrum). Unlike the species, this variety typically has 2-ternate leaves. It is synonymous with and sometimes sold by nurseries as Aquiligia hinckleyana.

Genus name comes from the Latin word for eagle in reference to the flower’s five spurs which purportedly resemble an eagle’s talon.

Specific epithet means with golden flowers.


Crown rot in poorly drained soils. Less susceptible to leaf miner than many of the other species of columbine. Spider mites and aphids may appear in hot and dry conditions. Plants may show stress and lose leaves when planted in too much sun in hot summer conditions. Foliage usually declines by mid-summer at which point it should be cut to the ground.


Borders, cottage gardens, open shade gardens or naturalized areas. Also a good selection for a hummingbird garden. Rock gardens.