During midsummer when swampy, open woods and low, wet meadows are overrun with the rank luxuriant growth of vegetation peculiar to such localities, the Tall Meadow Rue will be found in all its glory, towering head and shoulders triumphantly above the tangled, struggling mass. And above them all, it will continue to hold its proud head, whether its ambitious companions grow three feet or a dozen feet high. What a noble lesson it teaches discontented mortals to make the best of surrounding conditions, and to be ever on the alert to keep just ahead of every competitor, regardless of his pace. If this were not the case with the Meadow Rue, it would soon become lost in the struggle, and unless it could change its mode of living, it would soon become extinct. Such is the law governing the survival of the fittest.
The Tall Meadow Rue is noted for its beautiful, fern-like and feathery flowers which grow in great profusion. It is open and branching, and its general appearance is loose and delicate. The compound leaves are comparatively small for the size of the plant, and remind one a little of the Maiden-hair Fern. The variable, rounding, wedge-shaped leaflets are arranged in groups of three or five, and three or five of these groups are again arranged to form the triangulated outline of the complete leaf, which occurs alternately upon the stalk. The outline of the leaflets is entire excepting the ends, which are notched into pointed or rounded lobes. The centre leaflet of each group is larger than the one occurring on either side of it. The colour is a cool, medium green above, and of a lighter shade on the under side. The texture is firm and rather thin, and the surface is smooth and lustreless. The under side is minutely hairy and shows a fine network of veins. The stalk is rather stout, finely grooved, and round, and its colour is light green, stained with purple near the joints. The delicate, fairy-like flowers are arranged loosely in large, fluffy clusters and their appearance is at once attractive and pleasing. They have no petals, but four or five early falling petal-like sepals act for a short time in their place. The white, hair-like, green tipped stamens are very numerous and expand into pretty, fuzzy, starry, and delicately scented balls.
The pistils number from four to ten. Botanists find a particular interest in the Tall Meadow Rue because both complete and imperfect flowers occur on different as well as the same plant. A complete or perfect flower, by the way, is one having both stamens (male) and pistils (female) and producing seeds. An incomplete or imperfect flower lacks either the stamens or the pistils. Flowers bearing stamens only are known as staminate or male flowers, and those bearing pistils only are known as pistillate or female flowers. The Tall Meadow Rue may be found from June to September, from Labrador and Quebec to Florida and westward to Ohio.