Anemonoides nemorosa (syn. Anemone nemorosa), the wood anemone, is an early-spring flowering plant in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae, native to Europe. Other common names include windflower, thimbleweed, and smell fox, an allusion to the musky smell of the leaves. It is a perennial herbaceous plant growing 5–15 cm (2–6 in) tall.
Description & apperanceAnemonoides nemorosa is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant less than 30 centimetres (12 in) in height. The compound basal leaves are palmate or ternate (divided into three lobes). They grow from underground root-like stems called rhizomes and die back down by mid summer (summer dormant).
The plants start blooming in spring, March to May in the British Isles soon after the foliage emerges from the ground. The flowers are solitary, held above the foliage on short stems, with a whorl of three palmate or palmately-lobed leaflike bracts beneath. The flowers are 2 centimetres (0.8 in) diameter, with six or seven (and on rare occasions eight to ten) tepals (petal-like segments) with many stamens. In the wild the flowers are usually white but may be pinkish, lilac or blue, and often have a darker tint on the backs of the tepals.
The yellow wood anemone (Anemonoides ranunculoides) is slightly smaller, with yellow flowers and usually without basal leaves.
Wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella, which grows in similar shaded places, can be readily distinguished by its ternate and clover-like leaves and smaller flowers with 5 white petals and 5 sepals.
The flowers are pollinated by insects, especially hoverflies. The seeds are achenes.
The plant contains poisonous chemicals that are toxic to animals including humans, but it has also been used as a medicine. All parts of the plant contain protoanemonin, which can cause severe skin and gastrointestinal irritation, bitter taste and burning in the mouth and throat, mouth ulcers, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and hematemesis.
HabitatIt is common in shady woods. This species spreads very slowly in UK forests, by as little as six feet per century, so it is often used as an indicator for ancient woodland. It is native throughout Europe and is common in the British Isles.