WOOD ANEMONE WIND FLOWER
(Anemone quinquefolia) Crowfoot family
Flowers - Solitary, about 1 in. broad, white or delicately tinted
with blue or pink outside. Calyx of 4 to 9 oval, petal-like
sepals; no petals; stamens and carpels numerous, of indefinite
number. Stem: Slender, 4 to 9 in.
high, from horizontal elongated
rootstock. Leaves: On slender petioles, in a whorl of 3 to 5
below the flower, each leaf divided into 3 to 5 variously cut and
lobed parts; also a late-appearing leaf from the base.
Preferred Habitat - Woodlands, hillsides, light soil, partial
Flowering Season - April-June.
Distribution - Canada and United States, south to Georgia, west
to Rocky Mountains.
According to one poetical Greek tradition, Anemos, the wind,
employs these exquisitely delicate little star-like namesakes as
heralds of his coming in early spring, while woods and hillsides
still lack foliage to break his gust's rude force. Pliny declared
that only the wind could open anemones! Another legend utilized
by countless poets pictures Venus wandering through the forests
grief-stricken over the death of her youthful lover.
"Alas, the Paphian! fair Adonis slain!
Tears plenteous as his blood she pours amain;
But gentle flowers are born and bloom around
From every drop that falls upon the ground:
Where streams his blood, there blushing springs the rose;
And where a tear has dropped, a wind-flower blows."
Indeed, in reading the poets ancient and modern for references to
this favorite blossom, one realizes as never before the
significance of an anthology, literally a flower gathering.
But it is chiefly the European anemone that is extolled by the
poets. Nevertheless our more slender, fragile, paler-leaved, and
smaller-flowered species, known, strange to say, by the same
scientific name, possesses the greater charm. Doctors, with more
prosaic eyes than the poets, find acrid and dangerous juices in
the anemone and its kin. Certain European peasants will run past
a colony of these pure innocent blossoms in the belief that the
very air is tainted by them. Yet the Romans ceremonially picked
the first anemone of the year, with an incantation supposed to
guard them against fever. The identical plant that blooms in our
woods, which may be found also in Asia, is planted on graves by
the Chinese, who call it the "death flower."
To leave legend and folk lore, the practical scientist sees in
the anemone, trembling and bending before the wind, a perfect
adaptation to its environment. Anchored in the light soil by a
horizontal rootstock; furnished with a stem so slender and
pliable no blast can break it; its pretty leaves whorled where
they form a background to set off the fragile beauty of the
solitary flower above them; a corolla economically dispensed
with, since the white sepals are made to do the advertising for
insects; the slightly nodding attitude of the blossom in cloudy
weather, that the stigmas may be in the line of the fall of
pollen jarred out by the wind in case visitors seeking pollen
fail to bring any from other anemones - all these features teach
that every plant is what it is for excellent reasons of its own;
that it is a sentient being, not to be admired for superficial
beauty merely, but also for those same traits which operate in
the human race, making it the most interesting of studies.
Note the clusters of tuberous dahlia-like roots, the whorl of
thin three-lobed rounded leaflets on long, fine petioles
immediately below the smaller pure white or pinkish flowers
usually growing in loose clusters, to distinguish the more common
RUE-ANEMONE (Syndesmon thalictroides - Thalictrum anemonoides of
Gray) from its cousin the solitary flowered wood or true anemone.
Generally there are three blossoms of the rue-anemone to a
cluster, the central one opening first, the side ones only after
it has developed its stamens and pistils to prolong the season of
bloom and encourage cross-pollination by insects. In the eastern
half of the United States, and less abundantly in Canada, these
are among the most familiar spring wild flowers. Pick them and
they soon wilt miserably; lift the plants early, with a good ball
of soil about the roots, and they will unfold their fragile
blossoms indoors, bringing with them something of the unspeakable
charm of their native woods and hillsides just waking into life.
The TALL or SUMMER ANEMONE (A. Virginiana), called also
THIMBLE-WEED from its oblong, thimble-like fruit-head, bears
solitary, inconspicuous greenish or white flowers, often over an
inch across, and generally with five rounded sepals, on erect,
long stalks from June to August. Contrasted with the dainty
tremulous little spring anemones, it is a rather coarse, stiff,
hairy plant two or three feet tall. Its preference is for
woodlands, whereas another summer bloomer, the LONG-FRUITED
ANEMONE (A. cylindrica), a smaller, silky-hairy plant often
confused with it, chooses open places, fields, and roadsides. The
leaves of the thimble-weed, which are set in a whorl high up on
the stem, and also spring from the root, after the true anemone
fashion, are long petioled, three-parted, the divisions variously
cut, lobed, and saw-edged. The flower-stalks which spring from
this whorl continue to rise throughout the summer. The first, or
middle of these peduncles, lacks leaves; later ones bear two
leaves in the middle, from which more flower-stalks arise, and so
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