Anemone virginiana (Tall Thimbleweed)

Plant Info
Also known as: Virginia Anemone
Family:Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade; dry open woods
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:12 to 40 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flowers] 2 to 8 long-stalked flowers arising from a whorl of leaves at the top of the stem, sometimes with a pair of leaf-like bracts about midway up a stalk. Individual flowers are ¾ to 1 inch across with 5 pointed, hairy, greenish white, petal-like sepals and numerous yellowish stamens around a bulbous green center. Flower stalks are hairy.

Leaves: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf attachment: whorl Leaf type: compound Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: palmate

[photo of leaves] There are basal leaves and a whorl of 3 to 5 leaves about midway up the stem, all of similar shape, palmately compound in groups of 3. The basal leaves have long stalks and are a little larger than the stem leaves. Leaflets are deeply lobed in 3 to 5 parts, toothless, hairy, to 2½ inches long; the outer lobes are toothed on the tip half and somewhat oval.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit] The flower cone elongates up to about 1 inch. Fruit is a tiny brown seed attached to cottony fluff. The cottony cone persists through winter.


Tall Thimbleweed is easily confused with Thimbleweed (Anemone cylindrica). The best way I've found to tell them apart is by the shape of the leaves. Thimbleweed leaflets are wedge-shaped at the base with the lobes fanning out. The outer lobes of Tall Thimbleweed leaflets are more rounded with teeth along the tip half. Thimbleweed also rarely grows taller than 2 feet and has cones up to 1½ inches long, where Tall Thimbleweed can reach nearly 4 feet and its cones are usually under 1 inch long. There are 3 recognized varieties of A. virginiana, all of which may be found in Minnesota: var. cylindroidea has the smallest flowers and sepals densely covered in matted hairs, var. alba has sparsely hairy sepals and stem leaves that are mostly straight across the base, var. virginiana has sparsely hairy sepals and stem leaves that are mostly heart to kidney-shaped at the base. Where the varieties are concerned, a point of confusion is which vars are where in Minnesota. According to Flora of North America, var. virginiana should be the most common here and var. alba should be limited to riparian areas and cliffs in the counties bordering Wisconsin, but both the DNR's county information and Bell Herbarium records put var. alba across the state and the most common var in MN. The cloud of confusion will resolve itself eventually...

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Vadnais/Snail Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County, and Wild River State Park, Chisago County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Lisa - Nevis (north central Minnesota
on: 2009-08-19 23:01:52

I came across a couple of these on the Heartland Trail. Talk about a mystery! I took photos which I posted on a messageboard asking if anyone knew what they were. There were lots of guesses including coneflowers, but nothing with leaves like these. The leaves were SO familiar, but we just couldn't get it. Then I was browsing through some of the most recently posted photos here on your site and there it was! Glad to finally solve THAT mystery!

Posted by: Robyn - Litchfield
on: 2011-06-28 23:15:23

I found quite a few of these next to Lake Ripley and didn't know what they were until I found them on your site. Thanks so much for helping me identify it.

Posted by: Sarah - Isanti County: East of Princeton; Green Lake area
on: 2013-12-14 21:06:29

Found in low numbers in clearing in mixed forest; I used the leaf shape photos on this website to confirm that it is tall thimbleweed (vs. thimbleweed). Thanks!

Posted by: luciearl - lake shore
on: 2019-07-09 03:16:59

I have a few clusters of tall Thimbleweed growing in my woodland area.

Posted by: Nancy - Mille Lacs County
on: 2019-09-09 12:57:05

Found populations of this plant along a trail that was an old railroad bed. Your website is very helpful describing the difference between Anemone virginiana and Anemone cylindrica leaf shapes to tell them apart.

Posted by: Hv Hughes
on: 2020-07-25 08:36:16

several clumps on the Pembina Trail in Marshall County 7-24-2020

Posted by: Diane Halvorson - South of Vining, MN
on: 2021-06-24 20:26:53

I found it coming up in the spring in an old flower bed that was my mother-in-law's but is now mine. I almost dug the sprouts out, but then left them to grow. I thought it might be cranesbill, but it definitely has a different flower. So happy to find your site and identify this plant. I'll keep it in my bed with the hostas,wild columbine, and bleeding heart.

Posted by: Victoria - St. Paul - Mendota Heights
on: 2021-10-09 14:13:48

Last year I had two of these show up in my garden, now I have several. Grows about 3 ft tall. Wasn't sure if I should keep it, or if it was invasive. Took me a little while to find out what it was, but thanks to your site, now I know. Will let it reseed since it is an attractive plant and adds a bit of height to the garden beds.

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