The annual spring wildflower displays at Rock Point are mostly over, but hikers should keep an eye out for the late-blooming Eastern Red Columbine. Some would say that Mother Nature saved the best for last, as this showy plant with uniquely-shaped petals is considered by many to be one of the Champlain Valley’s most beautiful wildflowers.
Eastern Red Columbine, also known as the Canadian or Wild Columbine, is part of the Buttercup family. It is a hardy plant that lives for three to five years and can survive fire disturbance. Columbine grow ten to thirty inches tall, bloom from April to July and set fruit in mid- to late summer. It has lobed leaves that are grouped in threes and alternate on the stem. The plant’s deep red and yellow flowers hang downward and include five spur-shaped petals filled with nectar. Columbine will produce several blooms at once, creating a dazzling display.
Since this wildflower has a plentiful source of nectar, it attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, which have long tongues that are specially adapted for reaching the sweet secretion. The Eastern Red Columbine is native to eastern and central North America, and can be found throughout the eastern US and Canada. The plant prefers soils that are well-drained, loose, and slightly acidic, but can also grow on exposed calcareous rock ledges and crevices.
Kayakers often report finding Columbine clinging to the steep sides of our seventeen protected islands in Lake Champlain. At Rock Point, look for these attractive wildflowers nestled among the low rocky ridges that line many sections of the Peninsula’s trail system.
Photo courtesy of Vince Franke of Peregrine Productions/ Lake Champlain Land Trust
Article submitted by Lake Champlain Land Trust, Jeff O'Donnell
The Lake Champlain Land Trust is the conservation partner of the Rock Point Sanctuary. The Land Trust holds the conservation easements permanently protecting the natural, scenic and recreational resources of the Rock Point land. The Lake Champlain Land Trust is a member-supported, non-profit organization working with you and your community since 1978 to save land, conserve places to hike and paddle, and protect Lake Champlain's water quality. For more information and local places to explore nature, visit our website (www.lclt.org).