False Rue Anemone

Photo of false rue anemone plant and flower
Scientific Name
Isopyrum biternatum
Ranunculaceae (crowfoots, buttercups)

False rue anemone is a herbaceous spring wildflower, often in large colonies. Flowers arise singly on long stems from leaf axils; sepals 5, white. Blooms March–May. Leaves are present at the base of the plant but also on the stems with flowers. Leaves compound with 2 or 3 sections, these with rounded lobes.

Similar species: This flower is often confused with (true) rue anemone, Thalictrum thalictroides. That species, however, has only bracts on the flowering stems (not complete leaves); it often has more than 5 sepals, which are sometimes pinkish; it is usually only found singly; and it prefers wooded slopes to moist bottomlands.


Height: 5–8 inches.

Where To Find
image of False Rue Anemone distribution map

Statewide, except for the southeast lowlands.

Occurs mainly at bases of wooded slopes or in wooded bottomlands, sometimes in sunny situations. Often found in large colonies.

Some botanists consider this North American plant and its relatives as less related to the Eurasian genus Isopyrum, so some references call this plant Enemion biternatum.

False rue anemone and "true" rue anemone present a bit of difficulty for the budding naturalist, but meeting the challenge of learning how to identify the two similar plants helps us understand botany, and our world, better.

Many animals nibble tender green plants in springtime. This and other woodland flowers require a forest habitat to survive, so they depend on the oaks, hickories, maples, and other trees that surround them.

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Similar Species
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!