Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wasatch Columbine

i always try to make a note of the first Columbine that i see each year.  this year, it was on the lower Bowman Fork trail in Millcreek Canyon.  i was supposed to be taking a rest day from running today, but just couldn't sit at home--the day was too beautiful.  so i got out for a 3.5 mile stroll, with the dogs, just up to White Fir Pass.

the beautiful Columbine was poking out from some brush on the lower part of the trail, just about one mile up.  she surprised me, and i exclaimed, "Oh!  First Columbine!" out-loud and with a smile to myself and to the dogs, as no one else was around.  alas, i did not have my camera with me to document her graceful presence.

as i continued up the trail, i saw many more Columbine on the hillsides.  strange how they just appear one day out of the foliage.  i was just up there a few days ago on the same trail, in the same place, but the conditions must not have been just right yet.

there is something quite special about this lacy, delicate White Columbine that i see throughout the Wasatch mountains of northern Utah.  named "Aquilegia caerulea", this variation is ochroleuca (there are five documented varieties).  other varieties of Columbine that i have come across in my wanderings are the fiesty, tough, red and yellow Crimson Columbine (Aquilegia formosa) of the high Sierra mountains and the blue and white Rocky Mountain Columbine (Aquilegia caerulea var. alpina, often mistaken for Aquilegia saximontana) of Colorado.  this white variety, that i have found most prevalent in the Wasatch mountains, is actually called the "White Colorado Columbine", although i don't recall ever seeing it in Colorado.  it is also listed as being present in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana as well.

the common name "columbine" is in latin reference to "like a dove", and has the religious reference of symbolizing the Holy Ghost.  the genus name "Aquilegia" is also an avian reference, but this time to an eagle, as the flowers spurs have been described to turning down as an eagle's talons might.

i can understand the references to doves and eagles, but to me the White Columbine has more ties to the snows that we get in Utah.  it is seen only as the last small pockets of snow are melting out in the Spring, and to me symbolizes the white, light Wasatch powder snow that graces our hillsides from November until May.  like the Wasatch snow, this White Columbine has a drift-like elegance that is magical and a bit mysterious and altogether delightful.  to me, the White Columbine symbolizes the Wasatch.


  1. I love your photos on your blog. so great

  2. Julie Bryce Willardson

    thanks for sharing, as always ;)

  3. Tom Hilton

    Lovely. Saw tons of the crimson version (Aquilegia formosa) up north of Tahoe the weekend before last.

  4. Rosemary Craighill

    Take care of your joints! Moderation in all we do. Happy you are loving life.