What’s that wildflower? The Canadian Anemone

Few things are more exciting than driving along, the familiar landscape splayed out before you, with all of its familiar weeds and newly planted corn and soybean fields, and then, out of the corner of your eye, a flash of something new enters the landscape.

And then, when you stop to look at said new thing, you are elated that it’s a wild form of a cultivated cut flower that you grow in your very own cutting garden, and it’s just as pretty, if not more. That leads me to today’s “What’s that wildflower?” post. I found this adorable low-growing plant, which forms a mass of foliage and white flowers, in two spots, both in East Hardin, Illinois alongside the road. Hope you enjoy today’s blog post!

Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis)

Described as a robust perennial that can often become agressive, the Canadian anemone has basal foliage that gives rise to a stalk of whorled leaves and a single flower that is usually white with yellow stamens. The leaves are rough feeling, serrated, and sessile (meaning attached directly to the stem rather than on a petiole). The mass of stems and leaves together produce a beautiful mound that seems to cover quite a large area, smothering out other weeds that may try to poke through. The Canadian anemone is native to river margins, river floodplains, ditches, and moist areas of sun to part-shade.

Because of their bobbing and waving characteristics, anemones are often called “windflowers” with the way they move in the wind. If you’re wanting some of these plants for your own garden, you’ll have to buy plants from a native plant nursery or dig up the rhizomes in early spring or fall. After the plant is done blooming, everything dies back, including the leaves. The seed heads may remain to produce fuzzy seeds that float off with the wind.

Canadian anemones are classified into the Ranunculaceae family (a.k.a. Buttercup family). Another common name for the Canadian anemone is “meadow anemone”.

Many of the characteristics of the Canadian anemone are similar to Anemone coronaria, the type of anemone I plant in my cutting garden. The anemones I use for cutting arrive as “corms” (modified underground stems). I soak them in February for about 12 hours, and then I lay them out in trays filled with a peat-based seed-starting mix to presprout them. They will sit in my dark basement with a cover over them until they have good root development. At this time, there are little sprouts that are starting to emerge from the corm as well, so once I have my low or high tunnel beds prepped, I plant them in the beds under cover to protect them from freezing temperatures. The anemones I grow for cutting are not known to make it through our winters without some sort of protection, however the anemones I planted in 2020 survived the winter outside in one of my raised beds with no cover and came popping up this Spring of 2021.

Just like Canadian anemones, A. coronaria foliage and flowers die back once the heat starts to set in (around early June for me). I let some of mine go to seed this year because they had too short of stems to cut, and the seed is covered in this fuzzy white fluff that blows away readily in the wind.

There are a few other anemones that may be found in our area. The first is the tall anemone (A. virginiana), which is not as aggressive as other anemones and can grow up to 4 ft tall. The second is the wood anemone (A. quinquefolia). These plants are a little more “delicate” and can have white or pinkish flowers.

There are many types of spring flowers that I’ve wanted to highlight, but the Canadian anemone caught my eye. It’s not the usual yellow-flowered cressleaf groundsel (a.k.a. butterweed) or garlic mustard or any other type of early spring plant that seem to all be from the mustard family.

Be sure to follow our blog or our social media pages for more posts and farm updates! Ask about our flower subscriptions and think about us for Mother’s Day next year, as that’s when our anemones will be blooming! We have some exciting new things that will be happening in 2022, and if all goes as planned we should have lots more of these beautiful early spring flowers like anemones and ranunculus for you to take home for yourself or a loved one.

Cheers!

A

Pictured above: A gorgeous bouquet of early spring flowers that includes anemones, ranunculus, bachelor button’s, and blackberry foliage.

References

“Anemone canadensis.” 2012. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved from <https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=anca8&gt;.

“Anemone canadensis.” Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved from <http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=b330%20&gt;.

Branhagen, Alan. 2016. Native Plants of the Midwest: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best 500 Species for the Garden. Timber Press. Portland, Oregon.

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