Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa)
|Size||Size: 5 – 30 cm|
Wood anemone is an attractive plant that often indicates the site of old woodland. Each stem has a single, white, star-shaped flower, often flushed with pink or purple. Halfway up the hairless flower stem grows a whorl of stalked, palm-shaped leaves and leave stems grow from the root.
Wood anemones are found throughout the UK and in Western Europe.
The plant is found in dry deciduous woods, along old hedgebanks and in upland meadows.
Wood anemones are one of the first spring flowers, their cheerful white stars appearing in March and April. They are perennials and, as their seed is rarely viable in Britain, they spread by means of underground roots. However, they do not advance their carpet quickly, and colonies of anemones can often be found in the same spot within a wood, century after century. Bradfield Wood in Suffolk has large carpets of wood anemones, and the fact that these woods have a history of traditional management reaching back to the 12th century illustrates the plant’s long association with ancient woodland.
However, the appearance of wood anemones in parts of the uplands long-since denuded of their woodland suggests that the plant may have once been more widespread and not confined to woods. There are colonies in the Yorkshire Dales and on the limestone hills of Derbyshire. This apparent liking for light may explain its early – and short – flowering season. Once the trees in a wood have rebuilt their spring canopy of leaves, the plant’s flowers wither and fall.
Some of the best colonies of wood anemones are in Wayland Wood in Norfolk, the site of the ‘Babes in the Wood’ story. These plants have purple streaked and even wholly purple petals to their flowers and records suggest that there was also once a rare blue-flowered variety.
Apart from the loss of much of their habitat, wood anemones are not considered particularly threatened.
Woodland management that follows the traditional practice of coppicing, leaving open areas within the wood, is usually beneficial to a wide variety of flowering plants. Wood anemone is only one of a number of flowers that can often be found in an ancient woodland. Most conservation projects for managing woodland will improve the wood anemones’ chances of being enjoyed for many generations to come.
Information supplied by English Nature.
- Coppicing: traditional form of woodland management in which trees are cut close to the base of the trunk. Re-growth occurs in the form of many thin poles. Woodlands are cut in this way on rotation, producing a mosaic of different stages of re-growth.
- Perennials: plants that live for at least three seasons; after an initial period they produce flowers once a year.