Helpful Herbs: Columbine

February 18, 2016

The Columbine plant is a hardy wildflower that thrives in cooler climates.  Their unique flowers make a beautiful addition to any garden, and they are useful for their healing properties as well.

 

Columbines’ flowers are bell-like and spurred, and their name is Latin for “dove” as the blossoms are said to resemble five doves clustered together.  Their flowers come in a wide variety of colors, from dark reds and pale pinks to sapphire blues and subtle purples.

 

Columbine is best grown from seed, and will self-seed if left through the winter.  Its hardiness, and preference for cooler weather, means it is especially easy to grow in Northern climates, where it can tolerate full sun, little fertilization, and well drained soil.  Since they don’t like the heat, in warmer climates they grow best in partial shade.  Their stalks can reach up to two feet tall, and with regular dead-heading they will blossom from early May til the end of June.

 

While Columbine isn’t a regular part of our diet anymore, the blossoms were once used as a garnish by the Native Americans and are healthy in small doses.

 

As a remedy, Columbine is most frequently used to treat stomach ailments and intestinal problems.  It is no longer commonly used because it can be toxic in high doses, however it is still used in moderation by herbalists.

 

Since it first appeared in North American around 30,000 years ago, Columbines have adapted their flowers and growth to reflect the different areas they grow in.  Because of this adaptability, they are often referenced as an example of evolution at work.

 

Columbine is one of the most recognizable herbal flowers, and its image was used as the crest for the House of Lancaster.  It is the state flower of Colorado, and it is a perfect plant for wind boxes and to decorate container gardens.  Because it has a very high content of vitamin C, Columbine was once used to treat scurvy.

 

The Native Americans found plenty of uses for this delicate looking plant, including using it as a treatment for poison ivy.  The image of the image of the plant is sometimes used in Christianity to represent the Holy Spirit.

 

While the culinary uses of Columbines are limited, its dramatic flowers will compliment your herb garden.

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