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Linnaeus named this genus in 1753.  "Thalictrum" is of ancient and unknown Greek origin.

Thalictrum fendleri

Thalictrum fendleri variety fendleri (Meadowrue)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family). 

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Woodlands, meadows. Spring.
Owens basin Trail, June 13, 2004.

Meadowrue is delicate, very common, and often unnoticed.  It grows to two or three feet tall and frequently appears in large dappled patches in forests and meadows.  The delicately scalloped leaves of Meadowrue are similar to the leaves of Columbine but are considerably smaller (see last picture below).  The leaves have a distinct pleasant smell when crushed.  

George Engelmann named this species in 1849, probably from a specimen collected by the renowned collector, Augustus Fendler, near Santa Fe in 1846.  (More biographical information about Fendler.)

Weber places Thalictrum in Thalictraceae, not Ranunculaceae.

Thalictrum fendleri
Thalictrum fendleri variety fendleri (Meadowrue)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family).

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Woodlands, meadows. Spring.
Taylor Creek Trail, June 2, 2004.

Meadow Rue's leaves delicately unfold in swirls from a small orb.

Thalictrum fendleri
Thalictrum fendleri variety fendleri (Meadowrue)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family). 

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Woodlands, meadows. Spring.
Owens basin Trail, June 13, 2004.

Meadow Rue is dioecious (Greek for "two houses), i.e., Meadow Rue has male flowers separate from female flowers and, in the case of Meadow Rue, they are also on separate plants.

The male flowers lack petals and thus attract little attention, but a close look at the flowers reveals very unusual, attractive tassel-like stamens giving the plant a festive atmosphere.

Thalictrum fendleri
Thalictrum fendleri variety fendleri (Meadowrue)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family). 

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Woodlands, meadows. Spring.
Horse Creek Trail, June 27, 2006.

As stamens fade brown, they contrast with the white sepals.

Thalictrum fendleri

Thalictrum fendleri

Thalictrum fendleri

Thalictrum fendleri variety fendleri (Meadowrue)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family).

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Woodlands, meadows. Spring.
Weminuche Wilderness Trail, June 23, 2007, Stoner Mesa Trail, June 18, 2010, and Little Taylor Creek Trail, July 28, 2005.

Meadowrue styles can have just a tinge of, or considerable, pink. Styles are brown and hardened on the seed pods.

Thalictrum fendleri

Thalictrum fendleri

Thalictrum fendleri variety fendleri (Meadowrue)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family).

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Woodlands, meadows. Spring.
Little Taylor Creek Trail, June 16, 2004 and Bridal Veil Falls Trail, July 23, 2009.

In the top photograph at left, the larger leaves to the right of center are those of Columbine; the smaller leaves at left are those of Meadowrue.  They are very similar and fool us often -- as the bottom photograph indicates.

Thalictrum fendleri
Thalictrum fendleri variety fendleri (Meadowrue)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family).

Foothills, montane, subalpine. Woodlands, meadows. Spring.
Calico Trail, September 30, 2009.

Fall colors are typical of mountain flora: yellow, yellow, yellow.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Thalictrum fendleri