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Alpine Meadow-­rue

Thalictrum alpinum

  • Name also: Dwarf Meadowrue, Alpine Meadow Rue
  • Family: Buttercup Family – Ranunculaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 5–25 cm (2–10 in.). Stem unbranched, usually leafless.
  • Flower: Regular (actinomorphic), red, approx. 5 mm (0.2 in.) wide. Petals lacking. Sepals 4, reddish, withering quite early. Stamens many, filaments thin, purplish, anthers long-tapered, usually reddish brown. Gynoecium separate, pistils 3–6. Inflorescence a sparsely flowered raceme, flowers pendant.
  • Leaves: A basal rosette, stem leaves at most 1, stalked, stipulate. Blade ovate–triangular, longer than broad, 1–2 times pinnate. Secondary leaflets roundish, tip lobed–blunt-toothed, edges narrowly revolute, upper surface shiny dark green, lower surface light bluish green.
  • Fruit: Ridged lengthways, bristle-tipped, 2–3 mm (0.08–0.12 in.) long, short-stalked–almost stalkless achene.
  • Habitat: Tundra and birch-zone fell stream, river and lake shores, fell meadows, sloping bogs and meadows. Occasionally on fens in the coniferous forest zone. Calciphile.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

Many passers-by overlook alpine meadow-rue, but this colourful and elegant plant is worth stopping to take a look at, and getting down close to it to get a better look at its beauty. The tepals and stamens’ filaments are reddish or purple and the anthers are yellowish until the pollen colours them red too. The flowers lack fragrance and the stamens’ anthers wave on the end of the delicate filaments, shaking the pollen to be carried on the wind.

What is the point of wind-pollinated plants growing colourful flowers? Meadow-rues were originally pollinated by insects, so the colours could simply be a legacy from their past. On the other hand insects can still pollinate alpine meadow-rue’s flowers too. Like many other fell plants, alpine meadow-rue propagates itself efficiently through its runners and its horizontal, branched ground stem.

As its name tells, alpine meadow-rue only grows in the fell area of Finland. It demands quite rich and usually damp soil; in dry places it only grows on lime-rich soil. It is quite common in Finland only in the tundra of the large fells of Utsjoki and Enontekiö, and it also grows rarely in broad-leaved forests and fens in the coniferous forest zone of northern Lapland. A couple of separate stands are known further south among the broad-leaved forests of Kittilä and the north-east of the country. Another meadow-rue species, T. minus ssp. elatum which is protected, also grows in northern Finland, but while alpine meadow-rue’s stem has a maximum of one leaf, the latter’s stem is covered in leaves from top to bottom.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family
Trees and bushes from the same family

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