Wood Anemone; Wind Flower – Flowers

(Anemone quinquefolia) Crowfoot family

Flowers—Solitary, about t in. broad, white or delicately tinted with blue or pink outside. Calyx of 4 to 9 oval, petallike sepals ; no petals ; stamens and carpels numerous, of Indefinite number. Stem : Slender, 4 to 9 in. high, from horizontal elongated rootstock. Leaves: On slender petioles, in a whorl of 3 to 5 below the flower, each leaf divided into 3 to 5 variously cut and lobed parts ; also a late-appearing leaf from the base.

Preferred Habitat—Woodlands, hillsides, light soil, partial shade.

Flowering Season—April June.

Distribution—Canada and United States, south to Georgia, west to Rocky Mountains.

According to one poetical Greek tradition, Anemos, the wind, employs these exquisitely delicate little star-like namesakes as heralds of his coming in early spring, while woods and hillsides still lack foliage to break his gust’s rude force. Pliny declared that only the wind could open anemones ! Another legend utilized by countless poets pictures Venus wandering through the forests grief-stricken over the death of her youthful lover.

“Alas, the Paphian ! fair Adonis slain ! Tears plenteous as his blood she pours amain; But gentle flowers are born and bloom around From every drop that falls upon the ground : Where streams his blood, there blushing springs the rose; And where a tear has dropped, a wind-flower blows.”

Indeed, in reading the poets ancient and modern for references to this favorite blossom, one realizes as never before the significance of an anthology, literally a flower gathering.

But it is chiefly the European anemone that is extolled by the poets. Nevertheless our more slender, fragile, paler-leaved, and smaller-flowered species, known, strange to say, by the same scientific name, possesses the greater charm. Doctors, with more prosaic eyes than the poets, find acrid and dangerous juices in the anemone and its kin. Certain European peasants will run past a colony of these pure innocent blossoms in the belief that the very air is tainted by them. Yet the Romans ceremonially picked the first anemone of the year, with an incantation supposed to guard them against fever. The identical plant that blooms in our woods, which may be found also in Asia, is planted on graves by the Chinese, who call it the “death flower.”

To leave legend and folk lore, the practical scientist sees in the anemone, trembling and bending before the wind, a perfect adaptation to its environment. Anchored in the light soil by a horizontal rootstock ; furnished with a stem so slender and pliable no blast can break it ; its pretty leaves whorled where they form a background to set off the fragile beauty of the solitary flower above them ; a corolla economically dispensed with, since the white sepals are made to do the advertising for insects; the slightly nodding attitude of the blossom in cloudy weather, that the stigmas may be in the line of the fall of pollen jarred out by the wind in case visitors seeking pollen fail to bring any from other anemones—all these features teach that every plant is what it is for excellent reasons of its own ; that it is a sentient being, not to be admired for superficial beauty merely, but also for those same traits which operate in the human race, making it the most interesting of studies.

Note the clusters of tuberous dahlia-like roots, the whorl of thin three-lobed rounded leaflets on long, fine petioles immediately below the smaller pure white or pinkish flowers usually growing in loose clusters, to distinguish the more common Rue-Anemone (Syndesmon thalictroides)—Thalictrum anemonoides of Gray—from its cousin the solitary flowered wood or true anemone. Generally there are three blossoms of the rue-anemone to a cluster, the central one opening first, the side ones only after it has developed its stamens and pistils to prolong the season of bloom and encourage cross-pollination by insects. In the eastern half of the United States, and less abundantly in Canada, these are among the most familiar spring wild flowers. Pick them and they soon wilt miserably ; lift the plants early, with a good ball of soil about the roots, and they will unfold their fragile blossoms indoors, bringing with them something of the unspeakable charm of their native woods and hillsides just waking into life.

The Tall or Summer Anemone (A. Virginiana), called also Thimble-weed from its oblong, thimble-like fruit-head, bears solitary, inconspicuous greenish or white flowers, often over an inch across, and generally with five rounded sepals, on erect, long stalks from June to August. Contrasted with the dainty tremulous little spring anemones, it is a rather coarse, stiff, hairy plant two or three feet tall. Its preference is for woodlands, whereas another summer bloomer, the Long-fruited Anemone (A. cylindrica), a smaller, silky-hairy plant often confused with it, chooses open places, fields, and roadsides. The leaves of the thimble-weed, which are set in a whorl high up on the stem, and also spring from the root, after the true anemone fashion, are long petioled, three-parted, the divisions variously cut, lobed, and saw-edged. The flower-stalks which spring from this whorl continue to rise throughout the summer. The first, or middle of these peduncles, lacks leaves ; later ones bear two leaves in the middle, from which more flower-stalks arise, and so on.