Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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  Prairie Folklore

by Wayne Pauly from Dane County Parks ACTION Adult Conservation Team Newsletter (All folklore stories)


Columbine and Ruby Throats

Twenty-five years ago I first heard the peculiar buzzing that led my eye to the repeated half loop mating flight of the ruby throated humming bird. With my outdoor job, I thought I’d see and hear it each spring, but it wasn’t until this past summer when my wife and I were admiring a patch of columbine on the bluffs of Nelson Dewey State Park that it happened again. Jackie mentioned a low buzzing that is outside my current range of hearing, but at least I caught a glimpse of the last half-loop the hummer flew. Much later he hovered over my wife’s red shorts, checked out the red cover of her novel, the can of coke, and quickly gave up and disappeared.

Humming birds zip through our city yard each summer checking out the coral bells, weigelia, wax begonia, impatiens, and my favorite, the columbine. The name columbine derives from columbo, a dove, and with a little imagination you can look at the flower and see five (red) doves sitting in a tight circle. Occasionally someone remembers that their grandmother’s name for the plant was “doves in a circle”, although more often this older generation called them honeysuckle. They picked the flowers and bit off the sweet nectaries (the dove’s head).

Plant some columbine and give the ruby throat a reason to visit, and then take a bite from the flower and reminisce a little.
 

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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