The Western Columbine plant grows in moist areas in forests, woodlands, alpine and subalpine meadows. The leaves look somewhat like an over-sized Maidenhair fern, with deeply lobed leaflets in groups of three. The foliage grows mostly as a mound of green at the base. It grows up to 30" tall and has beautiful red and yellow drooping flowers, about 2" long. Its flowers are pollinated by long-tongued pollinators, primarily hummingbirds and butterflies. The nectar is stored in the tips of the spurs, where only a long-tongued pollinator can reach it.
Aquilegia is thought to be from the Latin aquilla "eagle", because the petals were thought to resemble eagle talons. It could also be from aqua, "water" and lego "to collect" because the spurred flowers with their nectaries in the tips looked like ancient water jars. The common name is derived from the Latin Columba meaning "dove", because of a fancied resemblance of the flower to the 5 little heads of pigeons (doves) feeding together around a bowl.