also known as Wood Anemone, Crowfoot, Smell Fox
(Anemone nemorosa )
It has a long, tough, creeping root-stock, running just below the surface; it is the quick growth of this root-stock that causes the plant to spread so rapidly, forming large colonies in the moist soil of wood and thicket. The deeply-cut leaves and star-like flowers rise directly from it on separate unbranched stems. Some distance below the flower are the three leaflets, often so deeply divided as to appear more than three in number and very similar to the true leaves. They wrap round and protect the flower-bud before it unfolds, but as it opens, its stalk lengthens and it is carried far above them.
The flower has no honey and little scent, and apparently relies little on the visits of insects for the fertilization of its one-celled seed-vessels, which are in form like those of the butter-cup, arranged in a mass in the centre of the many stamens, and are termed achenes. As in all the Anemones, there are no true petals, what seem so are really the sepals, which have assumed the
coloring and characteristics of petals. They are six in number, pure white on the upper surfaces and pale rose-colored beneath.
Though so innocent in appearance, the Wood Anemone possesses all the acrid nature of its tribe and is bitter to the tongue and poisonous. Cattle have been poisoned, Linnaeus tells us, by eating it in the fresh state after having been underfed and kept on dry food during the winter, so that they were ready to browse on the first leaves they saw. A vinegar made from the leaves retains all the more acrid properties of the plant, and is put in France to many domestic purposes: its rubifacient effects have caused it to be used externally in the same way as mustard.
The Egyptians held the Anemone as the emblem of sickness, perhaps from the flush of colour upon the backs of the white sepals. The Chinese call it the 'Flower of Death.' In some European countries it is looked on by the peasants as a flower of ill-omen, though the reason of the superstition is obscure. The Romans plucked the first Anemones as a charm against fever, and in some remote districts this practice long survived, it being considered a certain cure to gather an Anemone saying, 'I gather this against all diseases,' and to tie it round the invalid's neck.
Greek legends say that Anemos, the Wind, sends his namesakes the
Anemones, in the earliest spring days as the heralds of his coming.
Pliny affirmed that they only open when the wind blows, hence their name
Though this species of Anemone has practically fallen out of use, the older herbalists recommended application of various parts of the plant for headaches, tertian agues and rheumatic gout.