Aquilegia canadense is a perennial, to 2 m (usually less than 50 cm), slender, branched stems often brownish, from a short rhizome, roots associated with VA mycorrhizas (Brundrett and Kendrick 1988).
Leaves alternate, 2 times compound, leaflets lobed, bluntly toothed, dark green, slightly waxy-pale more so below, basal leaves larger, stalked, upper smaller, stalkless.
Flowers red and yellow, 3-4 cm, nodding, radially symmetrical but complex structure, 5 red petal tubes forming spurs, center yellow with cluster of protruding stamens, May-June. Visited by bumblebees that collect nectar and or pollen. These include: Bombus fervidus, B. pennsylvanicus, B. affinis and B. vagans (Macior 1968).
Fruit dry, hollow, 5-parted, elongate about 1.5 cm, capsules joined together, splitting open at tops to release small shiny black seeds. Winter plant pale brown with open, 5-parted fruit husks at tips of branches.
Wetland status: FAC.
Frequency in NYC: Very infrequent.
Habitat: Usually in rocky, undisturbed woods. Shade tolerant. Has been planted and naturalized in gardens of some parks (Blue Heron).