Rue Anemone


Flower Description:
Round white to light pink or lavender flowers (2-3) with 5-10 petal-like sepals (1” wide). Petals are absent. Numerous stamen and pistils.

Seed-like, one-seeded.

Leaf Description:
Five to eight basal and stem leaflets with 3 points (or teeth) that end in a rounded tip. Ovate leaves are roughly 1” long.

Common Names:

Anemone, Starflower, Wild Potato, Windflower

Established Plant Colonies in Norway Valley


Family: Buttercup (Ranunculaceae)
Height: To 8” (20 cm)
Flowering: April – June
Habitat: Rich, Moist, Deciduous or Open Woods
Cycle: Perennial


Rue Anemone is a plant that is often mistaken for other wildflowers, largely explaining its given common and scientific names. The word Rue for instance is derived from either the Latin word ruta or the Greek rhute both of which refer to the plant Rue (Ruta graveolens). The blue-green foliage of Rue Anemones perfectly resembles that of Rue.

Rue Anemone and Wood Anemone (A. quinquefolia) also share a similar common name (Anemone, a Greek word meaning breathes or lives) but should not be confused with one another. Though they both have similarly shaped flowers and tend to grow in the same area, Rue Anemone has clusters of several flowers, while Wood Anemone sends up only one16. Rue Anemone also have rounded leaflets as opposed to the coarse toothed leaves of Wood Anemone. Rue Anemone is named in Latin for the likeness of its flowers to those of an Anemone and its foliage to that of Meadow Rue. Rue Anemone was formerly classified as Anemonella thalictroides and was the only member of the genus.

Anemonella meant “little anemone” referring to the small, delicate blossoms that resemble other Anemones. Later Rue Anemone became a member of the genus Thalictrum which seemed more appropriate for the wildflower. Thalictrum is a Greek word for a plant whose identity is unknown, a genus that also contains Meadow Rue. Its species name, Thalictroides, literally means “like Thalictrum” or “like Meadow Rue”. Collectively, its scientific name means ‘an unknown plant that is like a Meadow Rue’.

Common Names

Anemone, Windflower: Anemone is thought to be a combination of two words Anemos and mone collectively meaning wind habitat. Wind therefore could refer to the habitats in which Anemones are found. Wind may also refer to the movement of the flowers on the pliable stems that dance in the breeze during spring.
Starflower: Refers to the shape of the white blossoms.Wild Potato: Rue Anemones have tuberous roots, which were once dug and eaten as a starchy root vegetable. This delicacy was popular in Pennsylvania.


The flowers of Rue Anemone lack nectar, which would attract insects that would pollinate the flowers. Instead, the plant relies on its color and shape to draw pollinators and help ensure fertilization. Because this technique is somewhat unreliable, Rue Anemones mainly reproduce via underground roots.

Like Wood Anemones, Rue Anemones produce seeds that are spread by ants and other burrowing insects. The seeds each bear a fleshy appendage called an elaiosome that provide nourishment (proteins, sugar, lipids) for the insects. Ants typically carry the seeds, occasionally as far as 75-feet, to their nests where they consume the elaiosome and discard the seed. The seed then is free to grow in the shelter of the ant nest in a nourishing medium created by the ant waste. By moving the seeds, the plants have the best chance of survival in a non-competitive area away from the parent plant. The seed movement also ensures Anemones a wide range to develop into a large colony. This form of seed dispersal is called myrmecochory derived from the Greek words myrmex and kore which meant dispersal.

Medical Uses

Anemones contain varying quantities of an acrid, blister-causing juice which yields a highly irritating and antibiotic substance called protoanemonin. Protoanemonin is produced in the plant through the enzymatic breakdown of a glycoside ranunculin. Protoanemonin causes severe irritation and blistering of the skin as well as gastrointestinal irritation if consumed. As an antibiotic, Protoanemonin is effective against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.

Though typically considered mildly toxic, Native Americans used Rue Anemones for a variety of medicinal purposes. North American Indians of Quebec used an Anemone-infused tea for many ailments including treatment of boils, lung congestion, and eye illness. Meskwaki Indians burned seeds to make a smoke to revive unconscious persons. Rue Anemone roots were considered antiemetic and used to treat vomiting and diarrhea.

Rue Anemone is occasionally used today by herbalists in treatment for headaches, gout, leprosy, eye inflammations, and ulcers.