Native: Proud to Be Green and Obscene

What self-respecting gardener says green isn’t a color? I dare that person to walk outside this time of year and say that out loud. There are more colors of green in our yards, forests and parks then there are colors in a big box of crayons.

One of those hues, a shade of bluish green, colors the delicate foliage of Western Meadowrue (Thalictrum occidentale). Western Meadowrue is a beautiful tallish (up to 3 feet) perennial that spreads by rhizomes. The male flowers are on separate plants from the female flowers. The small flowers are not showy from a distance but the male flowers are downright glamorous up close.

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Western Meadowrue (Thalictrum occidentale) male flowers

The female flowers look like pink-and-green fuzz-balls, while the male flowers’ dangling purple anthers that quiver in the slightest spring breeze resemble tiny chandeliers – the kind of fringy chandeliers that you might find in an 1890s brothel . That’s only fitting! It’s all about sex this time of year – plant sex anyhow.

Western Meadowrue grows in bright or partial shade to mostly sun. It is fairly adaptable to moisture conditions and can handle fairly dry (shady) conditions to moist areas such as beside a stream. Western Meadowrue would be quite happy underneath a Vine Maple (Acer circinatum) or Big-leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) tree. Fringecup (Tellima grandiflora) would happily keep company with Meadowrue, and I have seen it growing in the wild with Baneberry (Actaea rubra), which is an unusual perennial that gets bright red (unfortunately poisonous) berries. If you want to have truly fulfilled Meadowrue, be sure to procure both genders so they can make babies! Give it some space so that it can spread: by rhizomes or seedlings.

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