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Common Meadow-rue

Thalictrum flavum

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Ditches, fens, gardens, hedgerows, meadows, riverbanks, swamps, waterside, woodland.

Yellow, no petals
Dense clusters of yellow flowers, coloured by the many stamens.
Stalkless fruit which is a short-tipped achene.
2 to 3 wedge-shaped leaflets. The terminal leaflet is longer than it is broad. A perennial which is most common in the south-east of England.
The flowers are fragrant.
Other Names:
Yellow Meadow-rue.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Thalictrum flavum, also known as yellow meadow-rue, is a species of perennial flowering plant in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae. It is native to Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. It typically grows to a height of 1.5 meters and has yellow flowers that bloom in the spring and early summer. The leaves of the plant are fern-like and feathery in appearance. It is often used in gardens and meadows as an ornamental plant. It prefers well-drained soils and partial shade to full sun. It can be propagated by dividing the rhizomes or by seed.


Common Meadow-rue, Thalictrum flavum, is a species of flowering plant that is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is commonly found growing in meadows, woodlands, and along stream banks. The plant is known for its delicate and airy appearance, with tall stems that can reach up to 1.5 meters in height and small yellow flowers that bloom in late spring and early summer.

One of the unique features of the Common Meadow-rue is its fern-like leaves, which are divided into numerous segments that are themselves lobed or toothed. These leaves give the plant a light and airy appearance, almost as if it were a delicate fern rather than a flowering plant. This makes it a popular choice for gardeners looking to add texture and interest to their landscapes.

The flowers of the Common Meadow-rue are small and yellow, with four petals and numerous stamens. They bloom in clusters at the top of the plant's tall stems, creating a soft and wispy effect. While the flowers may not be particularly showy, they are attractive to pollinators like bees and butterflies, making the Common Meadow-rue an important source of food for these insects.

In addition to its aesthetic qualities, the Common Meadow-rue also has some interesting medicinal properties. Historically, the plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including diarrhea, fever, and pain. More recent research has shown that the plant contains compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may make it useful in the treatment of conditions like arthritis and cardiovascular disease.

While the Common Meadow-rue is generally considered to be a low-maintenance plant, there are a few things to keep in mind if you are considering adding it to your garden. The plant prefers moist, well-drained soil and partial shade, and may not do well in very hot or dry conditions. It can also be susceptible to powdery mildew, a fungal disease that can cause leaves to become discolored and distorted. To prevent this, make sure to plant the Common Meadow-rue in an area with good air circulation and avoid overwatering.

In addition to its uses in gardens and medicine, the Common Meadow-rue has played an important role in folklore and mythology. In Celtic mythology, the plant was associated with the goddess Brigid, who was said to have used it to create her magical flame. In medieval times, the plant was thought to have the power to protect against evil spirits and was often used in protective amulets.

The Common Meadow-rue also has a number of close relatives, including Thalictrum aquilegifolium, or the columbine-leaved meadow-rue, which has similar fern-like leaves and delicate flowers. Other members of the Thalictrum genus can be found around the world, including in North America, Asia, and Australia.

In the wild, the Common Meadow-rue plays an important role in supporting a variety of wildlife. The plant's flowers provide nectar for bees and other pollinators, while its leaves are a food source for a number of butterfly and moth species. In addition, the plant's tall stems can provide shelter for small mammals and birds.

Another interesting aspect of the Common Meadow-rue is its role in plant ecology. As a member of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), the plant contains a number of alkaloids that can be toxic to grazing animals. This means that it can be an effective defense mechanism against herbivores, helping to protect it and other nearby plants from being overgrazed.

In addition, the Common Meadow-rue has been studied for its potential use in ecological restoration projects. Due to its ability to tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, including those that are poor in nutrients, the plant may be well-suited to helping to restore disturbed or degraded areas. By providing a source of food and habitat for pollinators and other wildlife, the plant can also help to support biodiversity in these areas.

One of the challenges facing the Common Meadow-rue, however, is the threat of habitat loss and fragmentation. As natural areas are developed or converted for agricultural use, the plant's populations may become isolated or diminished, making it more vulnerable to extinction. Conservation efforts that focus on preserving and restoring the plant's habitat, as well as promoting its use in gardens and restoration projects, can help to ensure that this unique and valuable plant continues to thrive for generations to come.

The Common Meadow-rue is a fascinating and multifaceted plant that offers a wealth of benefits to humans and the environment. Whether you are interested in its aesthetic qualities, medicinal properties, or ecological value, it is a plant that is well worth exploring and learning more about. By appreciating and supporting the Common Meadow-rue, we can help to ensure that it remains a vibrant and integral part of our natural world.

The Common Meadow-rue has also been used for dyeing fabrics. Its flowers and leaves can be boiled to produce a yellow-green dye that was used in traditional textile production. The dye was often used to color wool and silk fabrics, and was prized for its light-fastness and resistance to fading.

In addition, the Common Meadow-rue has been studied for its potential use in the pharmaceutical industry. Researchers have identified a number of bioactive compounds in the plant that have potential therapeutic applications, including anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. While more research is needed to fully understand the plant's medicinal properties, these findings suggest that it may have a valuable role to play in the development of new drugs and treatments.

Finally, the Common Meadow-rue is a plant with a rich cultural history. In many cultures, it has been associated with femininity and maternal care, and has been used in rituals and ceremonies to honor the divine feminine. Its delicate appearance and graceful movements have also made it a popular subject in art and literature, where it has been used as a symbol of beauty, fragility, and resilience.

Overall, the Common Meadow-rue is a plant that is well-deserving of our attention and admiration. Whether we appreciate it for its beauty, its ecological value, or its many potential uses, it is a plant that reminds us of the diversity and richness of the natural world. By learning more about the Common Meadow-rue and other plants like it, we can deepen our understanding of the complex and interconnected web of life that surrounds us, and work to protect and preserve it for future generations.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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