Close-up View of the
Aquilegia caerulea hybrid 'Origami'
by Brian Johnston (Canada)
Still, still my eye will
gaze long fixed on thee,
Till I forget that I am
called a man,
And at thy side fast-rooted
seem to be,
And the breeze comes my
cheek with thine to fan.
Upon this craggy hill our
life shall pass,
A life of summer days and
Nodding our honey-bells mid
In which the bee half hid
his time employs;
And here we'll drink with
thirsty pores the rain,
And turn dew-sprinkled to
the rising sun,
And look when in the flaming
His orb across the heaven
its path has run;
Here left in darkness on the
My weary eyes shall close
like folding flowers in sleep.
(1813 - 1880)
The Columbine is one of my
favourite macro-photography subjects. In an earlier
attempted to give a complete picture of this elegant and unusual member
of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).
when the next spring arrived, I had new equipment, and my
local garden centre had a fresh supply of Origami hybrids; I just
couldn’t resist the challenge of recording more images of this species
with, (perhaps), a different perspective!
As I mentioned in the previous
article, the common name Columbine is derived from the Latin columba which means ‘dove’. Botanists obviously
thought that the flower’s distinctive spurs resembled a group of these
birds. Aquilegia, the
genus name, is derived from the Latin aquilinum
which means ‘like an eagle’,
since the curved spurs appear like the talons of an eagle.
The leaves of the Columbine are a
particularly attractive shade of green, and have three lobes, each with
Veining on both the front (left),
and back (right) surfaces of a leaf can be seen in the higher
magnification images below. Notice the difference in colour
between front and back.
Since in the previous article, a
red and white cultivar was the subject, I have chosen to study the pale
mauve and white one shown in the image below.
Very early-stage buds have minimal
colour, but as time progresses, the outer layer of sepals (modified
leaves) takes on a pale green tinge, and the spurs develop a
I find the intermediate stage of
bud development shown below to be particularly elegant, and remarkably
This elegance is lost as the bud
lengthens, and prepares to bloom.
The tiny spurs that will eventually
grow to become the flower’s most distinctive feature are shown in the
higher magnification macro-photographs that follow.
Notice the changes in appearance of
the buds as time progresses along a diagonal line from lower right to
upper left in the photograph below.
By the time that the bud begins to
open, it has darkened to the mauve hue of the mature flower. Here
again, the structural elegance is striking. Note that what you
are seeing at this point are sepals, and not petals. Remember
that the inner corolla formed by the petals is white in colour.
If you look into the bud’s opening,
the white petals are finally visible, as are the reproductive
Cursory examination of the opening
flower gives little indication as to whether the long spurs are
connected to the sepals or to the petals. (Later images will
answer this question.)
After a period of almost two weeks,
the tiny pale green bud seen earlier has opened into the distinctive
In the bloom shown in the images
that follow, the whorl of pointed, purple sepals form the flower’s calyx, while the whorl of curved
white petals forms its corolla.
the circular, shadowed area at the base of each petal. This
is a depression that leads to the petal’s spur.
At the flower’s centre is a group
of stamens consisting of pale green filaments supporting yellow
anthers. The pistils are not visible as yet.
The anthers (male pollen producing
structures) are not yet releasing any pollen. Their surface is
covered by a very thin membrane, sometimes called the anther cap, which
will eventually disintegrate to reveal the pollen.
I have deliberately chosen the
angle in the image on the right below, because it shows that the base
of each petal is positioned between
the two sepals on either side.
As you can see in the image that
follows, each spur is connected at its top to the base of a petal.
If you look very carefully at the
yellow anthers in the images below, you may be able to see that the
ones furthest from the flower are smaller, and have a darker colour.
This is much easier to see when we
move closer to the flower. Not only are the protective membranes
gone in the outermost anthers, but the flower’s many pale green pistils
are now visible.
The image on the left below shows
anthers with membranes intact. On the right, these membranes have
darkened, and have begun the process of disintegration.
Eventually, ‘typical’ anthers,
copiously coated with yellow pollen, become visible. Notice the
pale green, rod-like styles that support stigmas in the image on the
The tip of one of these stigmas
(pollen accepting organ) can be seen below.
A high magnification
macro-photograph showing the group of styles near the base of the
flower reveals that each is covered with tiny translucent hairs.
After being successfully
fertilized, the ovaries connected to the base of the styles begin to
increase in size. Although the stigmas are still present, both
anthers and filaments have fallen from the flower. In the
right-hand image, the light brown, dried remnants of the petals
remain. In the left-hand image, even these have been blown away
by the wind.
My personal preference on the
subject of flower colouration is for subtle hues. Brilliant
colours seem too garish. Since I realize that my views are not
shared by most flower-lovers, I have included this final section in the
article for those with coarser tastes. (I’m only joking!)
The buds of the red and white
cultivar shown above are identical in structure to the other, but they
have much more intense colouration. Notice the deep red colour of
the tips of the spurs in the image on the left.
Both the surface of the red sepal,
and that of the spur are hairy. At this stage, the sepal’s base
is wrapped tightly around the top of the spur.
Each of the flower’s spurs is a
hollow, elongated tube which contains specialized cells that secrete
nectar. The spur forms a reservoir for this nectar that collects
in both the tube, and in the knob-like bulge at its tip. (The
surface tension of the liquid holds it in these locations even if the
flower is positioned at an angle where gravity would tend to cause the
nectar to flow out of the spur.)
The cellular structure of a spur,
and its bulbous tip, can be seen at high magnification below.
Notice in this red and white
cultivar, that the tips of the red sepals are white, while the bases of
the white petals are red.
This flower was photographed before
the anthers’ membranes had begun to disintegrate.
For some reason, the columnar
sections of a fertilized flower’s ovaries have twisted in a corkscrew
In the flower shown below,
this is not the case.
I hope that this article has given
you a different perspective on the Columbine – one from a closer point
The low magnification, (to 1:1),
macro-photographs were taken using a 13 megapixel Canon 5D full frame
DSLR, using a Canon EF 180 mm 1:3.5 L Macro lens.
An 8 megapixel Canon 20D DSLR,
equipped with a specialized high magnification (1x to 5x) Canon macro
lens, the MP-E 65 mm 1:2.8, was used to take the remainder of the
A Flower Garden of
A complete graphical index of all
of my flower articles can be found here.
The Colourful World of
A complete graphical index of all
of my crystal articles can be found here.
Microscopy UK or their contributors.
Published in the June
2010 edition of Micscape.
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