Thalictrum: Meadow Rues
It’s easy to overlook some of these delightful beauties.
I first got to know meadow rue in the 1990s when I was learning about wild plants in my area. I came across a male Thalictrum dioicum, Early Meadow Rue, a small bushy plant about as tall as myself while I sat on the forest floor. The delicate dangling flowers and scalloped-edged purplish leaves really caught my attention. I recognized them right away as something I had seen a picture of in my faithful little companion, Audubon Wildflowers of the East book. I immediately marked the entry in the book with my personal shorthand of when and where I had seen it. Later, I would transform this wildlife recording into a nature journal.
Meadow Rue is not just a single species, but approximately two hundred various species in the genus Thalictrum. These plants live mostly in temperate regions and are part of the Buttercup Family, Ranunculaceae. Meadow Rues are not related to true rues, which are in the Citrus Family, Rutaceae.
Thalictrum species have no petals but in some species the sepals can be colorful and large enough to appear to be petals. The meadow rues have bluish-green foliage, with alternate compound leaves, twice or thrice divided. They often grow in shady and damp places, such as the riverine forest in Michigan where I first saw the Thalictrum dioicum.
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