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Wisconsin Plant of the Week

Thalictrum dasycarpum Fisch. & Lall.

Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Common Name:

purple or tall meadow-rue


Tall meadow-rue is a native perennial that grows in moist calcareous meadows, low prairies and openings in wet to mesic woods. Itís usually over 1 m tall and blooms in June and July after the leaves are fully expanded.

Inconspicuous flowers are clustered in a loose pyramid shape at the top of a smooth leafy stem.  Most Wisconsin Thalictrum are dioecious -- male and females flowers are on separate plants.  The male flowers (as shown) have many long white to purplish stamens. All the flowers lack petals and nectar, the usual means of attracting insects, and so the they depend on the wind to carry pollen to female plants.

Leaves are twice compound -- divided into 3 parts and each part is then divided into three again, so that the foliage appears delicate and lacy. The smallest leaflets can vary shape but each generally has 3 lobes and is about 15 mm long. The fruit is an achene, about 4 mm long, hairy and with many veins.

Another similar common meadow-rue -- Early meadow-rue (T. dioicum) -- blooms before the trees leaf out in spring and before its own leaves are fully expanded. Itís less than 1 m tall, the leaflets have 4 or more lobes and the plant grows in drier sites than Tall meadow-rue.  Skunk meadow-rue (T. revolutum) is similar, but rare and only in southeast Wisconsin. Itís a stouter plant, the crushed leaves smell fetid and the leaflets are hairy beneath.

  • Origin of the name: Thalictrum, Gk. Dioscordes name for another plant with compound leaves; dasycarpum, dasus, Gk., thick, hairy, rough, karpos, Gk., fruit
  • Range: Central N. Amer., rare east of OH and west of Rockies
  • WI Range:  Statewide
  • Common associates: bluejoint grass, New England aster, green ash
  • Wetland Indicator Status: FACW-
  • Coefficient of Conservatism: C = 5 (S&W), C = 3 (MI)
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