Anemone nemorosa

Anemone nemorosa

Anemone nemorosa is an early-spring flowering plant in the genus Anemone in the family Ranunculaceae. Common names include (European*) wood anemone, windflower, (European*) thimbleweed and smell fox, an allusion to the musky smell of the leaves. It is a perennial herbaceous plant, growing in early spring from 5 to 15 cm tall.

(*American wood anemone is Anemone quinquefolia, a different species in the same genus. American thimbleweed, Rudbeckia laciniata, is an entirely unrelated plant.)

Growth

The plants start blooming soon after the foliage emerges from the ground. The leaves are divided into three segments and the flowers, produced on short stems, are held above the foliage with one flower per stem. They grow from underground root-like stems called rhizomes and the foliage dies back down by mid summer (summer dormant). The rhizomes spread just below the soil surface, forming long spreading clumps that grow quickly, contributing to its rapid spread in woodland conditions, where they often carpet large areas.

The flower is 2 cm diameter, with six or seven petal-like segments (actually tepals) with many stamens. In the wild the flowers are usually white, but may be pinkish, lilac or blue, and often have a darker tint to the back of the 'petals'. The flowers lack both fragrance and nectar and it has been suggested by some authors that they are primarily self-pollinated, but it has also been demonstrated that they are pollinated by bees and other insects that visit the flowers to collect pollen (Shirreffs 1985).

Yellow wood anemone, Anemone ranunculoides, also known as the buttercup anemone, is a similar plant with slightly smaller flowers of rich yellow colouring.

Medicinal uses

The plant contains poisonous chemicals that are toxic to animals including humans, but it has also been used as a medicine. All parts of the plant contain protoanemonin, which can cause severe skin and gastrointestinal irritation.

Cultivation

Many cultivars have been selected for garden use eg Anemone nemorosa 'Allenii' which has large blue flowers. It has been awarded an Award of Garden Merit (AGM) H4 (hardy throughout the British Isles) by the Royal Horticultural Society, as have several of its cultivars (see below).

The RHS Plant Finder 2008–2009 lists 70 cultivars of Anemone nemorosa (AGM H4) available from nurseries in the UK. Some of those most widely available are:

  • 'Alba Plena' - double white
  • 'Allenii' (AGM H4) - large lavender-blue flowers, often with seven petals (Named after James Allen, nurseryman)
  • 'Bowles' Purple' - purple flowers (Named after E.A. Bowles, plantsman and garden writer)
  • 'Bracteata Pleniflora' - double, white flowers, with green streaks and a frilly ruff of bracts
  • 'Robinsoniana' (AGM H4) - pale lavender-blue flowers (Named after William Robinson, plantsman and garden writer)
  • 'Royal Blue' - deep blue flowers with purple backs
  • 'Vestal' (AGM H4) - white, anemone-centred flowers
  • 'Virescens' (AGM H4) - flowers mutated into small conical clusters of leaves.

Anemone × lipsiensis, a hybrid between A. nemorosa and A. ranunculoides, has pale yellow flowers; A. × lipsiensis 'Pallida' is the best-known result of this cross. It has been awarded the AGM H4, like both of its parents.

Sources

  • Shirreffs, D.A. 1985. Anemone nemorosa L. Journal of Ecology 73: 1005-1020.
  • RHS Plant Finder 2008–2009, Tony Lord (editor), Dorling Kindersley (2008) ISBN 978-1-4053-3190-6

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