early meadow-rue

(Thalictrum dioicum)

Conservation Status
early meadow-rue
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5? - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACW - Facultative wetland


FACW - Facultative wetland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACW - Facultative wetland


Early meadow-rue is a 12 to 28 tall, erect, perennial forb that rises from fibrous roots and a stout caudex. Staminate flowers (male) and pistillate flowers (female) are borne on separate plants. This plant blooms in the early spring before deciduous trees leaf out.

Stems are erect, hairless, green, and often branched in the upper half.

All leaves are on leaf stalks. Stem leaves are alternate. They are 3 or 4 times ternate—divided into 3 main divisions (ternate), each division further divided into 3 segments (biternate), each segment further divided into 3 leaflets (triternate), or once more divided. The leaflets are to 1¾ wide and wider than long. They are kidney-shaped, heart-shaped, round, or inversely egg-shaped with the attachment at the narrow end. The leaflets have 3 to 12 often round-toothed lobes. The upper surface is hairless and usually green, sometimes bluish due to a whitish, waxy coating (glaucous). The lower surface is hairless but may have short, rounded, nipple-like glandular bumps or projections.

The inflorescence is a small, up to 6 tall, branched cluster at the end of the stems and branches and in the leaf axils.

Male flowers have 5 greenish to purple-brown petal-like sepals. There are no petals. They droop at the end of short stalks. The sepals often drop off early leaving about 12 stamens with yellow to greenish-yellow filaments and anthers. The flowers do not produce petals or nectar to attract insects. They are wind pollinated.

The fruit is an achene over long.




12 to 28


Flower Color


Greenish to purple-brown


Similar Species


Purple meadow-rue (Thalictrum dasycarpum) is a much taller plant, 3 to 5 at maturity. Middle and upper leaves are stalkless. The leaflets are as long as wide, or, more commonly, longer than wide. The larger leaflets are divided into 2 to 5 but usually 3 lobes. The lobes are untoothed or occasionally have a few additional teeth. The flowers bloom later, June to July.

Waxy leaf meadow-rue (Thalictrum revolutum) is a much taller plant, 3 to 7 at maturity. The stems are glaucous. Middle and upper leaves are stalkless. The leaflets are as long as wide, or, more commonly, longer than wide. Leaf margins are rolled backward to the underside. The larger leaflets are divided into 2 to 5 but usually 3 lobes. The lower leaflet surface is covered with glandular hairs giving it a whitish, waxy appearance, and has a conspicuous network of raised veins.


Moderate moisture. Woods. Partial sun to shade.




April to May


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Ranunculanae  


Ranunculales (buttercups, poppies, and allies)  


Ranunculaceae (buttercup)  
  Subfamily Thalictroideae (columbines and meadow-rues)  


Thalictrum (meadow-rues)  

Subordinate Taxa




Common Names


dioecious meadowrue

early meadow-rue

early meadowrue














A dry, one-chambered, single-seeded seed capsule, formed from a single carpel, with the seed attached to the membranous outer layer (wall) only by the seed stalk; the wall, formed entirely from the wall of the superior ovary, does not split open at maturity, but relies on decay or predation to release the contents.



A short, thickened, woody, persistent enlargement of the stem, at or below ground level, used for water storage.


Glandular hairs

Hairs spread over aerial vegetation that secrete essential oils. The oils act to protect against herbivores and pathogens or, when on a flower part, attract pollinators. The hairs have a sticky or oily feel.



Pale green or bluish gray due to a whitish, powdery or waxy film, as on a plum or a grape.



Refers to leaves that are divided into three leaflets or sections.

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Early Spring Leaves

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Other Videos
  Native Woodland Species

Uploaded on Nov 9, 2009

http://www.PrairieMoon.com - Watch Steve discuss native woodland species blooming mid May, including Columbine, Wild Blue Phlox, Virginia Bluebells, and Early Meadow Rue.




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