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Wood Anemones and Their Familiar Relatives.

Updated on August 7, 2015

Woodland floor cover

Wood anemones carpeting the woodland floor.
Wood anemones carpeting the woodland floor. | Source

Notes from a Lancashire Country Man

The pretty Wood Anemone is one of the first woodland species to flower in abundance in the English countryside. They may be encountered in flower from March onwards. The delicate looking flowers are a joy to observe carpeting the woodland floor and banks brightening the locality under the naked boughs still dank from winter's grip.

They belong to the buttercup family Ranunculaceae. The name derives from the Latin rana meaning a frog and alludes to the fact that many species of this family share the same damp habitat. All members of this family are poisonous and should never be taken internally. Many members also cause irritation to the skin.

The wood anemone spreads by creeping rhizomes, however, they spread very slowly. Thus a colony that carpets a woodland indicates that the woodland is many centuries old. Wood anemones can attain the height of 10-25 cm. The stems are unbranched with a whorl of 3 bracts half way up. Each bract resembling leaves. The leaves, there may be a few dark green basal leaves {sometimes they are absent}, appear after the flowering they are long stalked with 3 lobes.

The flowers are relatively large up to 2-4cm across. They are solitary and star like. The flowers lack petals but they do produce sepal-like petals {referred to as tepals}, which are white often tinged with violet beneath. These are succeeded by the fruits which are globular clusters of achnes with curved beaks. The plants are considered by many to be garden worthy. They enhance sunlit shrubberies before the bushes come into the leaf.

The name anemone derives from the Greek anemos meaning the wind. In times gone by some authorities wrote that the flowers wood not open until th wind blew. hence the country title of wind flower.

The species name of nemerosa means of the woods or glades, alluding to habitat.

Garden relatives

Other members of the family are commonly found as garden species such as the winteraconite Eranthes hyemalis {formerly E. ciliicus} produce delightful yellow flowers which bring colour among the dank vegetation. They are a genus of clump forming perennials with knotty tubers. The flowers 2-2.5cm across are stalkless and appear just above deeply divided leaf like bracts which form a "ruff" beneath each bloom.

These tough little plants are frost hardy and prefer partial shade and a humus rich soil. Although it needs to be well drained they do not like excessively dry soil. The plants die down in summer. They may be propagated by division. Divide the clumps immediately after flowering while they are still in leaf.

Aconite derives from the Greek akoniton meaning a dart. In days gone by barbaric races dipped the heafds of their arrows in extracts of this poisonous plant.

Eranthis derives from greek, from "er" alluding to spring + anthos meaning a flower.

The species name hyemalis means of winter and refers to the plants early flowering.

Winter aconite

winter aconite the flowers are still in bud. The leaf like bracts are evident.
winter aconite the flowers are still in bud. The leaf like bracts are evident. | Source

Pasque Flower

Another relative the beautiful pasque flower Pulsatilla vulgaris is a hairy plant that may reach 30cm tall. It produces basal leaves {2-6} much divided, appearing after the flowers. Each stem has a single flower and a whorl of leaf like bracts. The flowers are violet about 5cm long at first bell-shaped then opening out, they are hairy on the outside.

In common with the wood anemone the flowers are composed of petal like sepals which number 6. These are succeeded by fruits 5 cm long with hairy achenes and long feathery styles. They flower from March to May. In the wild they may be encountered on dry grasslands, mainly on chalk. The pasque flower has been used medicinally. However, here in the U.K. They are protected by law and must not be collected, and being a member of the Ranunculaceae they are poisonous.

These notes refer to the plant being used in homeopathy where they are used to treat depression,migraine,complaints of the stomach and intestines. Colds and skin rashes. It was also used for relief of tension,earache and neuralgia.

The active ingredients are protanemonine { In its fresh state this causes blisters} but converts to the less poisonous anemonin on drying; also saponins and tannins.

Pasque derives from the French passefluer from passer meaning to excel + fluer meaning a flower. Pasque flower also means Easter flower.

The species name of pulsatilla, derives from pulse indicating " I beat" in allusion to the downy seeds being beaten about by the wind.

Beautiful blooms

The pasque flowers are a popular garden choice. they are now in decline in the wild.
The pasque flowers are a popular garden choice. they are now in decline in the wild. | Source


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    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi B, nice to meet an old friend. As always you are welcome to use my images, but make sure they are mine. Anyone else's will be stated as being theirs. Best wishes to you.

    • Brenda L Scully profile image

      Brenda Lorraine Scully 5 years ago from Ireland

      hey your back and i am back, you know that means i will be stealing your pictures, to write poetry about, me and Joy...... ha ah

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      imranhaider, thank you for your kind comment and for visiting. Best wishes to you.

    • profile image

      imranhaider 7 years ago

      great hubs

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      ImChemist, nice to meet you. Your kind comments are appreciated. Best wishes to you.

    • ImChemist profile image

      ImChemist 7 years ago

      Wow , great hub . thanks for sharing it .Rated up.

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Tony, thank you for your visit and for leaving your appreciated comments. Best wishes to you.

      Darski always nice to see you here my friend. Your comments as usual are kind and encouraging, love and best wishes to you.

      BkCreative, your very welcome. You make a very important observation about the undisturbed woodland benefiting all the other creatures that dwell in it or pass through it.Best wishes to you.

      The ListLady, thank you so much for your visit and your welcome comments. Best wishes to you.

    • TheListLady profile image

      TheListLady 7 years ago from New York City

      This is just so beautiful to look at. And maybe I have not seen this because we have destroyed so much. Sigh.

      Thanks for a super informative hub. The photo helps bring joy.

      Rated up and yay!

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      How beautiful is this! I wish I could see it here in NYC. We need nature and its beauty to rejuvenate us. How interesting to note that if you see the wood anemones, they could be centuries old meaning nature has been left alone somewhere - and surely all the animals have benefited.

      Thanks for such an informative hub. Ah nature!

      Rated up!

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 7 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Hello DAL this is a beautiful hub, I really could smell the flowers from here. I had No idea that basil grew like a big bush like that and it's wild...very cool. I rate this journey with you & peace Your fan and always your friend darski

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      Really beautiful and enjoyable read, thanks. I love ranuncs and did not know they were poisonous!

      Love and peace