Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae)
Description: This native perennial plant is about 3-6" tall, consisting of a few basal leaves on long petioles and one or more flowering stalks. On the lower part of each stalk is a whorl of 3 leaves, while at the apex there is a single flower spanning 11½" across. Each tripartite leaf is about 1" across and 1" long when fully mature. It is deeply cleft into 3 lobes, which are often cleft into secondary lobes. In addition to these lobes, there are coarse teeth with blunt tips along the margin. The upper surface of each leaf has silky appressed hairs. The leaves are often reddish purple when they first appear during the cool weather of spring, but they eventually become green. The flowering stalks are densely covered with silky hairs; they are usually some shade of reddish purple. The flower at the apex of each stalk has a daisy-like appearance, which has 8-20 petal-like sepals. These narrow sepals are light blue, light violet, white, or pink, and they are oblong in shape. At the center of each flower there are multiple pistils with yellow styles that are bunched together to form a head, which is surrounded by numerous stamens with yellow anthers. There are no true petals. The large flower buds are often light pink or purple and initially nod downward before becoming erect. The blooming period occurs during mid-spring and lasts about 2 weeks. There is no floral scent. The head of carpels at the center of the flower elongates with maturity and becomes woolly. The flattened achenes have a beak. There is a tuberous swelling of the rootstock at the base of the plant and rhizomes. Carolina Anemone spreads by reseeding itself and vegetatively by means of its rhizomes.
Cultivation: The preference is full or partial sun, dry conditions, and a gritty soil that is sandy, gravelly, or rocky. The rootstock may rot away in soil that is too moist and rich. Taller and more aggressive species of plants should be kept away. Vegetative growth and development occurs during the spring.
Range & Habitat: Carolina Anemone is an uncommon plant that occurs in scattered areas of northern and western Illinois (see Distribution Map). It is absent in southern Illinois. Habitats include dry upland areas of prairies, sand prairies, gravel prairies, hill prairies, barrens with scrubby trees or shrubs and scant ground vegetation, sandstone glades, thinly wooded bluffs, and roadside embankments. Cultivated forms of this species are occasionally grown in lawns, flower gardens, and cemeteries.
Faunal Associations: Information about floral-faunal relations is limited. The flowers probably attract bees and flies during the spring. The foliage is toxic and rarely eaten by mammalian herbivores.
Photographic Location: A flower garden in Urbana, Illinois.
Comments: Carolina Anemone produces flowers of exceptional beauty. These flowers are quite large considering the small size of the plant. Across its broad range (mainly in the southern United States), both the flowers and leaves are variable in appearance. The flowers occur in different pastel colors, different sizes, and vary in the number of petal-like sepals. The cleft lobes of the leaves can be quite narrow or rather broad. This showy species produces larger flowers with more petal-like sepals than any other Anemone spp. in Illinois.