by Jane Scully
(Anemonella thalictroides or Thalictrum thalictroides)
Imagine! This lovely, delicate plant is the source of disagreement among the heavy hitters of the natural world! While botanists agree that it is a member of the huge buttercup family, some place it in the genus that includes the meadow rues, which have similar leaves. Others include it in the genus Anemonella, from its early name as "windflower."
Certainly no one could disagree about the appeal of the 1" bright white or pinkish-tinged flowers as they rise on a stalk above a pair or whorl of leaves. There are no actual petals on this flower, but rather 5 to 10 petal-like sepals that often sit behind a plant's petals. From the center of the flower come lots of stamens and pistils that add depth and a great sweetness.
The leaves themselves are a major identifier for the rue anemone. The compound leaves have three round-lobed leaflets toward the end of their stem. With both flower and leaf perched on these slight stems, one can see how easily they would be caught in the slightest breeze. Windflower indeed seems a proper name.
Look for rue anemone on hillsides of open woods as early as April. It thrives in woods and woody thickets through June. And, as Mrs. William Starr Dana wrote in 1893, the rue anemone "seems to linger especially about the spreading roots of old trees."
Photos by the author