Fendler’s meadow rue (Thalictrum fendleri) was named after Augustus Fendler (1813 – 1883), a German who collected plants in North and Central America. This native perennial is usually dioecious, that is, the male and female flowers are on separate plants. But to confuse the situation, some Fendler’s meadow rue specimens flowers are bisexual and contain both male stamens and female pistil.
Found in dappled patches in forests and meadows, Fendler’s meadow rue grows between approximately 3,500 and 11,000 feet. Except for Montana and Washington, Fendler’s meadow rue can be found in states west of and including the Rockies and Texas.
A member of the Buttercup Family, Fendler’s meadow rue is rhizomatous. The stems are leafy, hairless and may be green to purplish. The leaves are each divided 3 to 4 times in 3s. Each leaflet is 3-lobed and on a thin stalk. The bracts are leaf-like. When crushed, the leaves emit a pleasant odor.
The Fendler’s meadow rue male inflorescence is a loose cluster of flowers in an upright or arching panicle at the top of the plant. There are no petals. However, the four greenish to creme sepals resemble petals. The male flower has 15 to 28 prominent hanging stamens with purple anthers. Hanging stamens are efficient wind pollinators. Female flowers have several carpels (part of a compound pistil) on a small receptacle and a single ovary.
The fruits of Fendler’s meadow rue are short-stalked, hairless achenes with three prominent veins on each side. The styles remain on the seed pods and are hardened and brown.
There is some debate about whether Fendler’s meadow rue is toxic, but Native Americans did use root preparations to treat colds and gonorrhea.
Rue is from the Latin “ruta” and means “bitter-leaved”. The genus name, Thalictrum, is from “thaliktron”, a word the Greeks used to describe plants with divided leaves.
These Fendler’s meadow rue plants were growing along the Upper Cedar Creek Trail near Cedar Pass in the Modoc National Forest (Modoc County CA).