This section is from the book "The Native Flowers And Ferns Of The United States ", by Thomas Meehan. Also available from Amazon: The Native Flowers and Ferns of the United States in Their Botanical, Horticultural, And Popular Aspects.
Low, smoothish; stem perfectly simple, from a filiform root-stock, slender, leafless, except the involucre of three long-petioled, trifoliolate leaves, their leaflets wedge-shaped or oblong, and toothed or cut, or the lateral ones two-parted ; a similar radical leaf in sterile plants solitary from the root-stock ; peduncle not longer than the involucre; sepals 4 to 7, oval, white, sometimes tinged with purple outside ; carpels only 15 to 20, oblong, with a hooked beak. (Gray's Manual of the Botany of the Northern United States. See also Chapman's Flora of the Southern United States ; Wood's Class-Book ; Botany of the Geological Survey of California ; etc.)
THE classical pronunciation of the generic name of this plant is An-e-mo'-ne, but the accepted pronunciation is An-em'-on-e. The Latins tell us that Adonis, the beautiful son of the King of Cyprus, and the "minion of Venus," was turned into a sort of poppy called Anemone. Others tell us that Anemone was a nymph beloved by Zephyr, and was therefore banished by the jealous Flora from her court, and changed into a cold spring flower. Boreas, however, wooed her, but, still true to Zephyr, who in this strait abandoned her, she would listen to nothing he had to say. Finding that she slighted his attentions, he maliciously continued them until she was half inclined to listen, when, after she had slightly opened her petals, he blew a cold blast and caused the tender flower to fade away. There is a popular impression in Europe that the species we now introduce opens only when the wind blows, and it therefore bears the popular name of "Wind-Flower," and this associates the flower very well with the ancient story. The name Anemone, as applied to the whole genus, was given to it, as we are told by Sir William Hooker, from the Greek name for wind, and because many species seem to delight to grow in places exposed to wind. The present species, however, grows in rather sheltered places, and has thus obtained the name of "Wood-Anemone," as well as "Wind-Flower."
The classical allusions we have referred to have been used to advantage by poets, who take our flower as the representative of one forlorn and forsaken, and occasionally introduce it in connection with the rugged banks which now and then line the "course of true love." Herbert Smith refers to "The coy Anemone, that ne'er uncloses Her lips until they 're blown on by the wind"; and Or. Darwin, in the fanciful "Botanic Garden," has the same story in mind when he says, "All wan and shivering in the leafless glade, The sad Anemone reclined her head; Grief on her cheek had paled the roseate hue, And her sweet eyelids dropped with pearly clew."
The fancy that the flowers of the Anemone have turned pale from a happy pink is well based on the varying tints of the flowers. They are sometimes found of a deep rosy hue. The tendency to vary is very marked. Some of the European species furnish the beautiful garden Anemones, and there is little doubt that care in selection and seed-sowing: might result in producing as varied colors in the American as in the European flowers. The American flowers would have the additional charm of fragrance, as a bunch of our species has a delicate, but delicious perfume.
If the ancients had known a little more than they did, they might have done poetic justice to the wrongs of sweet Miss Anemone by making her cold remains, after her death by Boreas, work to the injury of the whole race of gods and god-desses, for the juices of the plant are very dangerous when taken internally; they are said to be useful in a certain class of immoderate hemorrhages, but are too dangerous in overdoses to be often employed. Even the root, held awhile in the mouth, is said to induce a flow of cold, watery matter from the nose. Linnaeus reports that cattle feeding on it, in the North of Europe, get the dysentery. Chiropodists sometimes use the juice to burn out corns, and it is said to enter into some preparations for curing gout and rheumatism.
The Anemone nemorosa grows abundantly wherever it is found at all, and has a very wide range. It extends down into the mountains of North and South Carolina, and is also found along the coast of California. On both sides of the continent it proceeds far towards the Arctics, and is equally at home in Europe and Siberia.
It is one of the earliest flowers to put in a spring appearance, and is always welcomed by the most practical as well as by those who read "sermons in stones, and God in everything." Among these last, the eloquent poet, Percival, says, "Beside a fading bank of snow
A lovely Anemone blew, Unfolding to the sun's bright glow
Its leaves of heaven's serenest hue. "Tis spring,' I cried; 'pale winter's fled,
The earliest wreath of flowers is blown ; The blossoms, withered long and dead,
Will soon proclaim their tyrant flown !' "
Yes, the winter is a tyrant to the flowers ! but to the plant which bears it, a true friend. It gives it rest, and the " snowy bank," which the poet loves to see fade from over it, furnished protection and warmth to the little roots as they slept; but with our plate before us, we should not call what appear to be roots by that name. There are few "roots" to the Anemone in the winter season. What we find then are underground stems, from which the little root-fibres push forth in early spring. From the end of these stems a leaf starts from the apex after a few warm days, and the plant prepares to run on and make a few inches of underground growth for next year.
If it has not very well prepared itself, it may not flower, and then it appears as in our Fig. 3, - a long, pctioled leaf only, with a five-parted blade, when, like similar failures in human life, it may be thankful for the chance to try again another time; and, though a season has been thrown away, it generally manages to make a good flowering specimen the next year. In this case we have a pair of leaves from between which the flower is produced. The little difference between the form of the growth when it is barren and when it succeeds in producing a flower is not of much importance here, but it will help us to understand appearances in other Anemones that have distinct root leaves, independent of the flower stalks.
1. The usual white-flowered form.
2. A rose-flowered variety.
3. An abortive flower stalk.
4. Full-face view of an expanded flower.