Monday, April 27, 2020

Rue anemone, Anemonella thalictroides

Before Humber  Nursery closed for good in the fall of 2019, they had three short benches dedicated to native plants hidden in a back corner. Unless you went out of your way to search for natives, or somehow managed to wander inadvertently into this section, this modest collection might easily escape your notice. 

I've long been a fan of native plants. Every spring I'd make a foray into this less-travelled part of Humber's perennial greenhouse. One of the purchases I made was this little charmer. 

Fast forward to the present when I wanted to do a post on this delicate little plant. Darned if I could find the plant tag or remember its Latin name! Down a rabbit hole of research I fell! Turns out there are a number of similar-looking Anemones. I knew for a fact that it wasn't Anemone canadensis (a very aggressive plant that I also grow in my garden). I was also certain it wasn't Anemone Nemorosa (which is native to Europe and has pointed leaves). Maddeningly enough, the flower looks a lot like another native, Anemone Quinquefolia, but if you look closer, the leaves aren't as deeply lobed (compare Anemones here). Frustrated, I began to look back through my own blog posts and there I finally found it: Rue Anemone, Anemonella thalictroides. 

Anemonella thalictroides is native to the eastern part of North America. It's a spring "ephemeral" which is a plant that awakes, leafs-out, blooms and sets seed all before the heat of summer begins to settle in. Then they go dormant until the following spring. 

Rue anemone has tiny white flowers and bright-green leaves.  Like so many spring ephemerals, this plant likes the dappled shade of deciduous trees and rich, loamy soil that is slightly moist. Anemonella thalictroides bloom for a period of about six weeks and then goes dormant, especially if the areas where it is planted is hot and dry.

Anemonella thalictroides first emerging at the end of April.

If I haven't convinced you it's worth growing, here's a list of some of its best attributes:

• It thrives where many others struggle (under trees in part-shade/shade). 
• While it prefers moist soil in spring, it will tolerate dry conditions when dormant in the summer.
• When the foliage first emerges, the leaves are pinkish-lavender. They age to greenish-tan and finally become bright green. 
• When fully open, the foliage is delicate and fern-like. 
• Unopened flower buds look like tiny pearls. The blooms are pale pink on opening and fade to white.
• The flowers are an early source of nectar and pollen for bees and other insects.

Top row left to right: Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis 'Gold Heart') , Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) and Brunnera macrophylla variegata
Bottom row left to right: Daffodils, Pulmonaria and Merry Bells (Uvularia grandiflora)


This native is perfectly at home with other woodland plants such as ferns. Other natives you might pair it with are; Trout Lily, Erythronium americanum, Dutchman's Breeches, Dicentra cucullaria, Shooting Star, Dodecatheon pulchellum and TrilliumsYou might also consider using daffodils, Bleeding Heart, Brunnera and Pulmonaria with this Anemone.

Plant type: Herbaceous perennial

Height: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches)

Spread: 7-15 cm ( 3-6 inches)

Flower: Tiny white flowers

Bloom period: Early spring

Leaf: Three-lobed green leaves (that resemble Meadow Rue, Thalictrum)

Light: Part to full shade

Soil: Moist, humus-rich, slightly acidic well-drained soil

Move: Divide in summer when leaves begin to fade

Problems: None

USDA Zones: 4-8


  1. a lovely delicate flower. I probably can't find it here in my area, but I enjoy reading about the plants that you grow in your garden.


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