Confusing rues: identifying false rue anemone and rue anemone

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Confusing rues: identifying false rue anemone and rue anemone

If you get Enemion biternatum and Thalictrum thalictroides mixed up, you’re not alone. It doesn’t help that their common names—false rue anemone and rue anemone—are so similar. Both spring ephemerals are in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). Both have typically white petaloid sepals and three-lobed leaves.

Here are some differences in their appearance:

  • E. biternatum has five petaloid sepals whereas T. thalictroides has 5-10. Neither has true petals.
  • The multi-tiered leaflets of the former are more deeply lobed than that of the latter, which has singly-tiered leaflets.
  • The tips of Enemion lobes have a tiny little tooth and the sinus (space between each lobe) is rounded at the base.
  • Enemion commonly forms a vast carpet of its delicate flowers and leaves, while Thalictrum plants are more spaced apart, growing separately.

Both are native to our region and typically found in rich woodlands. They are a cheerful sight in early spring before ants carry away their seeds, the forest canopy fills in and we wait another year before these dainty plants wave hello to us once again.

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