Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Wildflower Wednesday: Enemion biternatum

Welcome to  Clay and Limestone and the Wildflower Wednesday celebration of a sweet little spring ephemeral wildflower.

Enemion biternatum is lovely with delicate columbine like leaves and small white flowers. Small bees collect the pollen  and flies feed on it, but, they would search fruitlessly for nectar. It hasn't any nectaries.

It's been growing under an oak tree in my garden since before I moved here (that would be almost 40 years ago). The foliage appears in late winter, carpeting the ground, then the flowers open and the first of the  pollinators visit to  pollinate. It dies back in mid-summer making it a true spring ephemeral.
It's also growing in my little pocket wildflower garden under the Ostrya virginiana, which is a lovely understory and underappreciated native tree. Dutchman's Breeches was already growing there and I transplanted Trillium from the way back woodland. I also added toothwort and Spring Beauties that I transplanted from the now disappeared front lawn. Phacelia bipinnatifida, a delightful lilac flowering biennial was added after a friend gave me seedlings. Their dormant roots are sheltered by a large Carya ovata/shag bark hickory during the hot summer months, but, they magically reappear each spring.

Eastern False Rue-anemone, False Rue Anemone or Enemion biternatum is a sweet little Spring ephemeral in the Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). It's native to shady rich or calcereous woods & thickets; floodplain woods and limestone ledges (slightly alkaline soil) and is native to Middle Tennessee. The delicate looking foliage of False Rue Anemone emerges in late winter and makes a beautiful leafy mat that grows about 6 inches high. The flowers, scattered here and there,  emerge as the days warm and the bloom period is at least a month long. It would make a lovely ground cover, but, like all Spring ephemerals, grows, blooms, gets pollinated, sets seed in a short period of time before it fades and retreats back underground.

The white flowers occur individually or in groups of 2-3. The flower is small only about ¾" across, and has 5 petal-like sepals that are white, no petals, several slender stamens with yellow anthers, and a few green pistils in the center. The blooming period occurs during mid-spring and lasts about 3 weeks and if weather isn't too warm there may be flowers for a month.


The pistils are replaced by beaked follicles (seedpods that split open along one side) that individually contain several seeds. You'll have to get down on all fours to see them, but, that's often the best view in a wildflower garden.

The lovely five 'petaled' (sepals) flowers with the showy yellow center stamens would look wonderful planted with Mertensia virginica, Thalictrum thalictroides, Trillium grandiflorum, Trillium cuneatum, Polemonium reptans, Phloxes, Geranium maculatum,  Phacelia bipinnatifida, Euonymus americanus, Philadelphus inodorus and Aesculus pavia. Plant them in rich loamy soil with full to partial sun and before long you'll have a small colony.


The particulars 

Common Name: false rue anemone  

Family: Ranunculaceae

AKA: Isopyrum biternatum

Type: Herbaceous perennial, Ephemeral

Native Range:

 Zone: 3 to 8 

Height: 0.50 to 0.75 feet 

Spread: 0.25 to 0.50 feet 

Bloom Time: March to April 

Bloom: White 

Sun: Part shade 

Water: Medium, rich soil helps

Maintenance: Low 


Flower: Showy. Anemone-like flowers (to 1/2" diameter) with 5 petal-like sepals and showy yellow center stamens

Foliage: Columbine like leaves

Habitat: open wooded slopes, river flood plains, rich woods and thickets. Colonizes

Wildlife value: Bees collect pollen, while fly visitors feed on pollen. Various beetles also feed on the pollen. Some of these insects probably search in vain for nectar, as the flowers lack nectaries. 

Comments: My favorite is from Missouri Department of Conservation: "This flower is often confused with (true) rue anemone, Thalictrum thalictroides. That species, however, has only bracts on the flowering stems (not complete leaves); it often has more than 5 sepals, which are sometimes pinkish; it is usually only found singly; and it prefers wooded slopes to moist bottomlands. False rue anemone and "true" rue anemone present a bit of difficulty for the budding naturalist, but meeting the challenge of learning how to identify the two similar plants helps us understand botany, and our world, better. Most members of this family are toxic, so be careful and don't eat it.


Wildflower Wednesday is about sharing wildflowers from your part of the world. Don't worry if you have nothing in bloom, you can still showcase one of your favorites. It doesn't matter if we sometimes show the same plants; how they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. I hope you join the celebration...It's always the fourth Wednesd

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. They are wonderful, aren't they? Mine will be blooming here in Wisconsin in the next few weeks. Such a special time in the garden when the native ephemerals take the stage. <3

  2. Fabulous info. Thanks for sharing.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson