tall thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana)
SCIENTIFIC SYNONYMS: There are no scientific synonyms for
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of tall thimble-
weed is Anemone virginiana L.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: This native perennial plant is about 1-2½' tall. The stems have
scattered white hairs and there is little branching, except for the produc-
tion of long stalks for the flowers.
Leaves: The leaves occur in 1 or 2 whorls along the stem, usually in
groups of 2 or 3. They are up to 5" long and across, and have long
petioles with scattered white hairs. Each major leaf is divided into 2
or 3 deep lobes, which are in turn divided into 2 or 3 shallower lobes.
Because these divisions are rather sharp, the leaves are cleft. Further-
more, the margins are coarsely serrate or dentate. The leaves are often
light green or yellowish green in bright sunlight.
Flowers: From the upper axil of each leaf, there occasionally develops a
long stalk with a single flower about ¾" across when it is fully open. This
flower consists of 5 white or greenish white sepals (looking like petals),
and numerous stamens with yellow or light brown anthers surrounding an
elongated central head that is prickly green.
Fruit/Seeds: This central head contains numerous achenes, and becomes
larger and more elongated as the sepals fall off. It is about ¾1" long and
up to ½" across, eventually turning into a fluffy mass with numerous dark
seeds. These seeds are eventually distributed by the wind.
Roots: The root system is rhizomatous, often producing vegetative offsets
from the mother plant. Tall anemone produces an allelopathic substance, protoanemonin, which inhibits seed germination and seedling growth in
many species of plants.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Tall anemone is propogated by seed; in
addition, vegetative offsets from the mother plant are frequently encount-
HABITAT TYPES: Habitats include moist to mesic black soil prairies,
savannas, open woodlands, thickets, and limestone glades. It usually
doesn't stray far from woodland areas.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Tall thimbleweed prefers partial sun and
moist to mesic conditions. However, this plant tolerates full sun and some-
times occurs in sunny habitats. The soil should consist of a rich loam that
retains moisture. Mature plants resist drought fairly well, and the leaves
are not often subject to foliar disease.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Tall thimbleweed is a spring blooming
species (April through May).
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Tall thimbleweed is found throughout
the eastern portion of the United States and Canada (with the exception of
Florida and Labador), the Ohio Valley, Mid-West and much of the Plains
states, and accross all of the southern Canadian provinces. It is not native
in the southwestern states and the Pacific Coast region of the United States.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: Small bees and flower flies visit the flowers
occasionally for pollen. Bee visitors include plasterer bees and halictid bees.
Mammalian herbivores usually leave this plant alone because the foliage
contains a blistering agent that can irritate the mouth parts and digestive
Varieties of tall thimbleweed were used medicinally by native Americans;
the species was used as an antidiarrheal, an aid for whooping cough, a
stimulant, an emetic, a love potion, a remedy for tuberculosis, and a pro-
tection against witchcraft medicine.
This curious plant offers different ornamental attractions at different times
of the year. During early summer, white flowers are produced, which are
soon replaced by long-lasting thimble-shaped seedheads. During the fall,
these seedheads slowly distintegrate into white cottony masses that remain
attractive all winter.
Crooked Run Valley