Aquilegia canadensis (wild columbine)
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Painting by Eileen Malone-Brown
I was attracted by the vibrant colors and delicate nature of the Eastern columbine and used a live specimen as the inspiration for documenting its life cycle in the nature journal I kept for this project. The lacy leaves, unusual flower architecture and castanet-like seed pod were a delight to capture - only surpassed by the parsnip-like roots I discovered after washing off the dirt. I completed the plant’s main portrait in watercolor and graphite, depicting it at the height of its blooming cycle in the early summer. To portray its medicinal components – the roots and seeds – I used graphite.
The seeds of Aquilegia canadensis or wild columbine were crushed and used by American Indians for headaches, fevers and as love charms. Whole seeds were rubbed into the scalp and hair to control lice. Additional ethnobotanical uses for the seeds include heart problems, skin rash or itch caused by poison ivy, kidney and urinary problems and fever as well as for ceremonial medicines, perfume and as additives to tobacco. The roots, which are somewhat fleshy like carrots, were chewed or used to make a weak tea for diarrhea, stomach illness and as a diuretic. A root tea was also used for uterine bleeding. Seventeen century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper wrote: “The leaves of columbine are successfully used in lotions for sore mouths and throat.”
The plant is potentially poisonous.