Rue Anemone

Thalictrum thalictroides

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Photo of rue anemone plant with flowers
Rue anemone is a common and beloved spring wildflower. It blooms March–June. It and other woodland wildflowers require a forest habitat to survive, so they depend on the oaks, hickories, maples, and other trees that surround them.
Family

Ranunculaceae (crowfoots, buttercups)

Description

Rue anemone is an early-flowering, delicate plant, usually growing singly. Flowers in small umbels (round clusters, with flower stalks arising from the same point) subtended by a whorl of nearly round, stalkless leaf bracts. Flowers variable, with 5–10 sepals that range from white to magenta-pink; sepals may be pointed or rounded. Stamens many, yellowish-green. Blooms March–June. Leaves basal on erect stems,3-lobed, much like the bracts. The basal leaves appear after flowering has begun.

Similar species: This flower is often confused with false rue anemone, Isopyrum biternatum. That species, however, has complete leaves on the flowering stems (not simply bracts); usually has only 5 sepals, which are always white (not pinkish); is usually found in colonies (not singly); and prefers moist bottomlands to wooded slopes.

Size

Height: to 9 inches, but usually much shorter.

rue_anemone_01-08-14.jpg

Photo of rue anemone plant with flowers
Rue Anemone
To distinguish rue anemone from the similar-looking false rue anemone, look for the following: more than just 5 sepals, which can be pinkish, and only bracts (not complete leaves) on the flowering stems. Confirm your identification by noting that it's growing singly (not in a colony) and is located on a wooded slope.

Rue anemone

Rue anemone in Franklin County
Rue anemone in Franklin County
Habitat and conservation

Occurs most commonly on open wooded slopes and ridges and is normally absent from bottomlands. This is possibly the longest-flowering species of early spring; it can bloom well into June.

image of Rue Anemone distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide, except northwestern Missouri and the southeast lowlands.

Status

Many older references call this species Anemonella thalictroides, but molecular evidence has now convinced most botanists that the plant belongs in the genus Thalictrum. Sometimes the common name is spelled with a hyphen ("rue-anemone") because some botanists use the hyphen to indicate that this is not technically a true "anemone" in the genus Anemone.

Human connections

Rue anemone and false rue anemone present a bit of difficulty for the budding naturalist, but meeting the challenge of learning how to identify the two similar plants helps us understand botany, and our world, better.

Ecosystem connections

This and other woodland flowers require a forest habitat to survive, so they depend on the oaks, hickories, maples, and other trees that surround them.