Aquilegia chrysantha var. rydbergii
Author: Munz


golden columbine


Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Close up of Aquilegia chrysantha var. rydbergii by Steve Olson
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Close up of Aquilegia chrysantha var. rydbergii by Steve Olson
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Close up of Aquilegia chrysantha var. rydbergii fruit by Jill Handwerk
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Taxonomic Comments

The letter "Q" is used after the T-rank to indicate that the taxon has "questionable taxonomy that may reduce conservation priority" (Nature Serve 2013). The Flora of North America (Vol. 3, 1997) questions the distinctiveness of the variety rydbergii, saying that material seen displays traits which fall within the normal variation for the species. The Plants Database (USDA NRCS 2013) shows A. chrysantha in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Utah, and A. chrysantha var. rydbergii in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. Weber and Wittmann (2012) and Ackerfield (2012) only report A. chrysantha for the state, and do not report any varieties. Weber and Wittmann (2012) place this genus in the Helleboraceae, or the Hellebore Family. A synonym for Aquilegia chrysantha var. rydbergii is A. thalictrifolia (Rydberg 1902, Ladyman 2005).

Ranks and Status

Global rank: G4T1Q
State rank: S1
Federal protection status: USFS Sensitive, BLM Sensitive
State protection status: None

[+] Description and Phenology

Aquilegia chrysantha var. rydbergii by Janet Wingate
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General description: In canyons and foothills along streams or in rocky ravines (Spackman et al. 1997, Weber and Wittman 2012).  Aquilegia chrysantha var. rydbergii is an herbaceous perennial with a short rootstock. It has numerous slender stems that are 20 to 120 cm tall. Towards the base, the stems are thicker and essentially hairless. Soft hairs (pubescence) cover the upper parts of the stem. The basal leaves are mostly triternate, rather thin, hairless, and light bluish-green. The yellow flowers are relatively small, the sepals being 10 to 18 mm long, the petals 7 to 12 mm long, and the nectar spurs 3.5 to 4 cm long. The stamens are exserted from the flower, and the mature styles are about 1 cm long. The fruits are derived from a single carpel that, when dry, dehisces, or splits open to release its seed, along only one side. Such a dry fruit is termed a follicle. The seeds are 1.5 to 2 mm long (Ladyman 2005).

Look Alikes: Aquilegia chrysantha is the only all yellow columbine on the eastern slope of Colorado (Spackman et al. 1997, Weber and Wittmann 2012). The uniqeness of the variety rydbergii is disputed with many botanists considering the differences within the normal variation of the full species. The variety is distinguished by smaller flower size, blunter sepals, highly curved dried fruits, and smaller, bluish leaf segments (Ladyman 2005).

Phenology: Flowers in June (Colorado Natural Heritage Program 2012).

[+] Habitat

Habitat of Aquilegia chrysantha var. rydbergii by Jill Handwerk
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Habitat of Aquilegia chrysantha var. rydbergii by Jill Handwerk
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In canyons and foothills along streams or in rocky ravines (Spackman et al. 1997, Weber and Wittman 2012).  Aquilegia chrysantha var. rydbergii grows in organic soils and has also been observed in gravel derived from granite parent material. Often found near the base of boulders on the canyon sides and floor, it may also grow on seep-fed rocky ledges.  It grows in shady and moist areas on slopes above a creek, along the side drainages, and within the riparian area of a perennial stream.  Associatied taxa include Corylus cornuta (hazelnut), Populus angustifolia (narrowleaf cottonwood), Betula occidentalis (river birch), Prunus virginiana (chokecherry), Acer glabrum (Rocky Mountain maple), Populus tremuloides (aspen), Salix spp. (willow), Epilobium, Fragaria, Gallium, Geranium, Heracleum, Mertansia, and others (Ladyman 2005, Colorado Natural Heritage Program 2013). 

In canyons and foothills along streams or in rocky ravines (Weber and Wittman 2001).  

Aquilegia chrysantha var. rydbergii grows in organic soils and has also been observed in gravel derived from granite parent material. Often found near the base of boulders on the canyon sides and floor, it may also grow on seep-fed rocky ledges.  It grows in shady and moist areas on slopes above a creek, along the side drainages, and within the riparian area of a perennial stream.  Associatied taxa include Corylus cornuta (hazelnut), Populus angustifolia (narrowleaf cottonwood), Betula occidentalis (river birch), Prunus virginiana (chokecherry), Acer glabrum (Rocky Mountain maple), Populus tremuloides (aspen), Salix spp. (willow), Epilobium, Fragaria, Gallium, Geranium, Heracleum, Mertansia, and others (Ladyman 2005, Colorado Natural Heritage Program 2013).  
 

Elevation Range: 5,089 - 8,232 feet (1,551 - 2,509 meters)

[+] Distribution

Distribution of Aquilegia chrysantha var. rydbergii in Colorado.
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Colorado endemic: Yes
Global range: Endemic to Colorado; known from Fremont, El Paso, Jefferson, and Las Animas counties. The Plants Database (USDA NRCS 2013) shows A. chrysantha var. rydbergii in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. The Flora of North America (Vol. 3, 1997) states that Colorado populations have been called A. chrysantha var. rydbergii and does not mention New Mexico or Arizona. Reports from New Mexico and Arizona (USDA NRCS 2013) are probably erroneous, possibly originating because NM and AZ are listed in the range of var. rydbergii in the 1985 Notice of Review for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species. These reports have not otherwise been substantiated.

[+] Threats and Management Issues

Summary results of an analysis of the status of Aquilegia chrysantha var. rydbergii based on several ranking factors. This species was concluded to be “effectively conserved”. From Rondeau et al. 2011.
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Most vulnerable to habitat loss caused by activities associated with recreation (Ladyman 2005). Much of the habitat for this taxon has already been severely altered and degraded. Occupied habitat on the Pike-San Isabel National Forest is currently managed primarily for recreation; hiking, biking, and horse-riding trails go through the existing occurrences (Ladyman 2005). Habitat encroachment by invasive weeds and livestock grazing are other potential threats. Long-term population sustainability may be vulnerable to declines in pollinator populations. As urbanization encroaches upon natural habitat, introduction of horticultural varieties of A. chrysantha may also become a concern. These varieties could hybridize with the natural populations and thus cause genetic dilution (Ladyman 2005). This plant occurs on land managed by the USFS, Department of Defense, BLM, City of Colorado Springs, El Paso County, and private land. There are no plans that specifically address the management of this taxon.

[+] References

    • Ackerfield, J. 2012. The Flora of Colorado. Draft. Colorado State University Herbarium. 433 pp.
    • Beardsley, M. and D. A. Steingraeber. 2013. Population dynamics, rarity and risk of extirpation for populations of Mimulus gemmiparus (budding monkeyflower) on National Forests of Colorado. A research report submitted to the USFS Forest Service. Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forets and Pawnee National Grassland. pp 17. Accessed online on May 11 at: http://www.r5.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/Rare_Plants/profiles/Critically_Imperiled/mimulus_gemmiparus/ documents/USFS_MimulusStatusReport2013.pdf
    • Coles, J. 1994. Personal communication about Rare Plant Guide Species.
    • Colorado Natural Heritage Program. 2006. Biological Conservation Datasystem. Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO.
    • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 1997. Flora of North America north of Mexico. Vol. 3. Magnoliophyta: Magnoliidae and Hamamelidae. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. xxiii + 590 pp.
    • Harrington, H. D. 1954. Manual of the Plants of Colorado. Sage Books, Denver, CO. 666 pp.
    • Jennings, W. 1994. Personal communication with CNHP staff.
    • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
    • Kartesz, J.T. 1996. Records considered questionably accepted reports in set of species distribution data at state and province level for vascular plant taxa of the United States, Canada, and Greenland, from unpublished data files at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, December, 1996.
    • Ladyman, J.A.R. 2005. Aquilegia chrysantha A. Gray var. rydbergii Munz (Rydberg's golden columbine): A technical conservation assessment. [Online]. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region. http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/projects/scp/assessments/aqulegiachrysanthavarrydbergii.pdf [2006-01-12]
    • Neely, B., S. Panjabi, E. Lane, P. Lewis, C. Dawson, A. Kratz, B. Kurzel, T. Hogan, J. Handwerk, S. Krishnan, J. Neale, and N. Ripley. 2009. Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Strategy, Developed by the Colorado Rare Plant conservation Initiative. The Nature Conservancy, Boulder, Colorado, 117 pp.
    • Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists. 2009. RARE Imperiled Plants of Colorado, a traveling art exhibition. Exhibition catalogue developed by the Denver Botanic Gardens and Steamboat Art Museum.
    • Spackman, S., B. Jennings, J. Coles, C. Dawson, M. Minton, A. Kratz, and C. Spurrier. 1997. Colorado rare plant field guide. Prepared for Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by Colorado Natural Heritage Program.
    • USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, PLANTS Database [USDA PLANTS]. http://plants.usda.gov/. Accessed 2013.
    • USDA, NRCS. 2013. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
    • Weber, W. A. 1990. Colorado Flora: Eastern Slope. University Press of Colorado, Niwot, CO.
    • Weber, W.A., and R.C. Wittmann. 2012a. Colorado Flora, Eastern Slope, a field guide to the vascular plants, fourth edition. University of Colorado Press. Boulder, Colorado. 555 pp.

Last Updated

2013-07-17