Colorado is a beautiful state with varied landscapes, from the prairie in the east to the deserts of the west and south, but Colorado is best known for the Rocky Mountains that cover most of the state. It should, therefore, come as no surprise, that the Colorado school children of the late 1890s voted the Rocky Mountain Columbine as the state flower. The state legislature officially adopted it on April 4, 1899, with an act of the General Assembly.
There are many species of Columbine all over the world, about 70 in all, only about one-third of them are native to North America. The Rocky Mountain Columbine was specified as the state’s official flower but is actually pretty rare in Colorado. It only grows in the Rockies at certain elevations and is most often found between 7,000 to 10,000 feet. Because of this, the flower was protected in 1925 by law from “needless destruction or waste”. It is illegal to remove or dig up these plants from public land. It is also not allowed to pick more than 25 blooms per day. These lovely white and lavender flowers first open early to mid-May and continue blossoming through June.
The Rocky Mountain Columbine is a beautiful flower with an outer layer of lavender/blue spurs, an inner white bloom with five upright bell-shaped petals, and a center cluster of thin yellow stamens. The inner petals act as modified nectar spurs and attract hummingbirds that have a symbiotic relationship with the plant. The hummingbirds enjoy the sweet nectar they need to survive while pollinating the plant so it can reproduce. It has a deep, carrot-like taproot, making it drought-tolerant in the harsh and unpredictable climate of the Rocky Mountains. Traditionally, the native Americans of the region used the plant medically for many ailments from fever to heart tension and even poison ivy.