Stems 20-80 cm. Basal leaves 2×-ternately compound, 5-30 cm, much shorter than stems; leaflets green adaxially, to 12-44 mm, not viscid; primary petiolules 10-55 mm (leaflets not crowded), distally pilose or occasionally glabrous. Flowers nodding; sepals divergent from floral axis, blue, lanceolate or narrowly elliptic, 13-16 × 3-6 mm, apex acuminate or acute; petals: spurs blue, hooked, 5-10 mm, stout, evenly tapered from base, blades white or pale yellow, oblong, 7-10 × 3-6 mm; stamens 7-11 mm. Follicles 15-25 mm; beak 3-4 mm. 2 n = 14, 16. Flowering summer (Jun-Aug). Open woods, meadows, shores, and rock outcrops; 800-3500 m; Alta., B.C., Man., N.W.T., Ont., Sask., Yukon; Alaska, Mont., S.Dak., Wyo. Aquilegia brevistyla has been reported from Minnesota. All Minnesota material seen, however, has been misidentified. The chromosome number in this species needs to be reinvestigated.
A western species, has been reported from Minn. It has ascending or nodding fls 1.5-2.5 cm, with the yellowish-white sep a little shorter than the blue or purplish pet, and the follicle-beak is 2-5 mm.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.