(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
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