Dichogamy is very common in flowering plants and is widely thought to reduce pollen‐pistil interference, especially self‐pollination. Yet, the functional significance of dichogamy has rarely been studied. We investigated the nature and functioning of dichogamy in eastern Ontario populations of Aquilegia canadensis, a highly selfing columbine previously described as protogynous. We then manipulated flowers to determine whether increased protogyny would reduce self‐fertilization. Contrary to previous reports, A. canadensis is not dichogamous. Controlled pollinations in a greenhouse showed that pollen tubes generally begin to develop after anther dehiscence. Although stigmas can collect pollen early in floral development, naturally pollinated flowers collected from four populations had few pollen grains on stigmas and almost no pollen tubes in styles until after anther dehiscence. Limited pollen deposition before anther dehiscence was also associated with low nectar availability and limited sepal expansion. Because inbreeding depression is strong in this species, selection may favor increased protogyny if it reduces selfing. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the level of selfing in flowers rendered protogynous by the removal of the first 19 (of 39) anthers to develop, with nonprotogynous control flowers. Contrary to expectations, protogyny did not reduce selfing. Our results emphasize the importance of detailed field observations and manipulative experiments in understanding the nature and functional significance of dichogamy.