(Thalictrum polyganum; T. Cornuti of Gray) Crowfoot family

Flowers - Greenish white, the calyx of 4 or 5 sepals, falling

early; no petals; numerous white, thread-like, green-tipped

stamens, spreading in feathery tufts, borne in large, loose,

compound terminal clusters 1 ft. long or more. Stem: Stout,

erect, 3 to 11 ft. high, leafy, branching above. Leaves: Arranged

in threes, compounded of various shaped leaflets, the lobes

pointed or rounded, dark above, paler below.

Preferred Habitat- Open sunny swamps, beside sluggish water, low


Flowering Season - July-September.

Distribution - Quebec to Florida, westward to Ohio.

Masses of these soft, feathery flowers, towering above the ranker

growth of midsummer, possess an unseasonable, ethereal, chaste,

spring-like beauty. On some plants the flowers are white and

exquisite; others, again, are dull and coarser. Why is this?

Because these are what botanists term polygamous flowers, i.e.,

some of them are perfect, containing both stamens and pistils;

some are male only others, again, are female. Naturally an

insect, like ourselves, is first attracted to the more beautiful

male blossoms, the pollen bearers, and of course it transfers the

vitalizing dust to the dull pistillate flowers visited later. But

the meadow-rue, which produces a superabundance of very light,

dry pollen, easily blown by the wind, is often fertilized through

that agent also, just as grasses, plantains, sedges, birches,

oaks, pines, and all cone-bearing trees are. As might be

expected, a plant which has not yet ascended the evolutionary

scale high enough to economize its pollen by making insects carry

it invariably, overtops surrounding vegetation to take advantage

of every breeze that blows.

The EARLY MEADOW-RUE (T. dioicum), found blooming in open, rocky

woods during April and May, from Alabama northward to Labrador,

and westward to Missouri, grows only one or two feet high, and,

like its tall sister, bears fleecy, greenish-white flowers, the

staminate and the pistillate ones on different plants. These

produce no nectar; they offer no showy corolla advertisement to

catch the eye of passing insects; yet so abundant is the dry

pollen produced by the male blossoms that insects which come to

feed on it must occasionally transfer some, albeit this primitive

genus still depends largely on the wind. Not its flower, but the

exquisite foliage resembling sprays of a robust maidenhair fern,

is this meadow-rue's chief charm.

The PURPLISH MEADOW-RUE (T. purpurascens), so like the tall

species in general characteristics that one cannot tell the dried

and pressed specimens of these variable plants apart, is easily

named afield by the purplish tinge of its green polygamous

flowers. Often its stems show color also. Sometimes, not always,

the plant is downy, and the comparatively thick leaflets, which

are dark green above, are waxy beneath. We look for this

meadow-rue in copses and woodlands from Northern Canada to

Florida, and far westward after the early meadow-rue has

flowered, but before the tall one spreads its fleecy panicles.

Quite as decorative as the flower clusters are the compound

seed-bearing stars.