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.