Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wednesday Wildflower: Meadow Rue

Male Meadow Rue
With April's second blizzard descending and about to bury the few tulips and squill near the house that have dared to poke their leaves above ground, a brightly coloured wildflower seems out-of-place. So instead I offer one with muted tones: Meadow Rue (Thalictrum spp.). Four species of Meadow Rue grow in Alberta, and this one is probably Veiny Meadow Rue (T. venulosum). Gender varies with the plant in Thalictrum, some are male, some female, some both. This plant is a male with dangling anthers and looks to me as if he's expecting the wind to do his pollinating. Although not as fancy as the species grown commercially, we like this unobtrusive relative of the buttercups (Ranunculus spp.). Meadow Rue and Buttercup may not look much alike, but we can report that Meadow Rues do have yellow roots.
Creeping or Shore Buttercup Ranunculus cymbalaria
I'm not exactly sure of the origin of Linnaeus' genus Thalictrum. Timothy Coffey's The History and Folklore of North American Wildflowers gives Thalia (Θάλεια) 'the blooming one', and the Muse of comedy and pastoral poetry. Thalia, in turn, is derived from the Greek for 'to flourish or be verdant'. However, Kathleen Wilkinson's Wildflowers of Alberta gives credit to the Greek thallo 'to grow green'. This may be all much of the same, but Linnaeus did describe another genus as Thalia - the Alligator Flags of the southern US.

Wikipedia has Thalia as named after Johannes Thal, a German Botanist. But Peter Bernhart in his entertaining Gods and Goddesses in the Garden, considers Thalia as a bit of Linnaean fun, honouring both Thal and yet another Greek Thalia (Θαλία): the Grace of festivities and luxuriant banquets. Given the abundance of flowers and the rather greyish foliage characteristic of Meadow Rues, I think I'll go with the Muse.

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