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.
Height: to 9 inches, but usually much shorter.
Statewide, except northwestern Missouri and the southeast lowlands.
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.
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.
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.
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.