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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

GIF -- species photo

Candle Anemone (Anemone cylindrica)


Also called "thimbleweed," "cottonweed," and "long-headed anemone," candle anemone occurs throughout North Dakota. We are near the center of the overall range of this plant, that includes the roughly triangular area with points in Maine, Alberta, and Arizona.

A perennial, candle anemone grows as small groups of stems up to 2 feet tall from a thick caudex (toughened stem base). Many of the highly dissected leaves arise on long petioles from the base, but another set of leaves is found at about 2/3rds the height of the plant. From this set grow 1-5 long stalks, each with a greenish-white flower about 3/4 inch wide. By fall, the stalks bear cottony fruit heads about 1-2 inches long. Fruits are white-wooly achenes.

Look for candle anemone in lightly or moderately grazed native prairie. The occurrence of more plants under these conditions may mostly be related to increased soil moisture, as the species seems to be little used by livestock. Many of the 100 or so species of Anemone are used for foods and medicines, especially in Asia, but I could find no reference to economic uses for candle anemone.

This plant is a member of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), the name derived from the Latin ranuncula for "a little frog," and applied by Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.) to these mostly aquatic plants that grow where frogs abound. The generic name Anemone is an ancient corruption of the Semitic name for Adonis, from whose blood a red-flowered species of the orient is said to have sprung. The specific epithet cylindrica refers to the shape of the fruit head. Candle anemone was first described for science in 1836 by America's premier botanist, Harvard Professor Asa Gray (1810-1888). His Manual of the Botany of the Northern States of 1848 is now through 8 editions.


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