Lesser Meadow-rue Lesser Meadow-rue Lesser Meadow-rue Common Meadow-rue

What are they?

Members of the buttercup family, meadow-rues are a varied bunch of herbaceous plants that are generally recognisable by their large heads of many, small, petalless flowers, often with prominent stamens. The leaves are usually two- to three-pinnate and are made up of many, wedge-shaped leaflets.

Where are they found?

These are plants of unimproved, natural habitats in dry, chalky or sandy areas and in wetlands. The habitat can be a useful clue to species identification.


As well as differences in habitat choice and in height, the two species can be readily told apart by the very different appearance of their flowers.

Common Meadow-rue      Thalictrum flavum

Native. Greatly declined due to drainage of wetlands, but still relatively widespread in species-rich fen communities in the main river valleys, as well as wetland complexes in the Broads and Fenland. Flowers July to August. Plants to 100cm tall; leaves 2- to 3-pinnate, made up of many narrowly wedge-shaped leaflets. Flowers with four whitish tepals at the base, topped with a 'pompom' of whitish stamens.

Common Meadow-rue Common Meadow-rue Common Meadow-rue Common Meadow-rue
Seed capsules

Lesser Meadow-rue      Thalictrum minus

Native. A plant of dry sandy or chalky places which is still reasonably widespread in Breckland but scattered and scarce elsewhere. Some, such as plants in churchyard sites, may be originally from planted stock. Flowers June to August. Plants generally much smaller than Common Meadow-rue, the 2- to 3-pinnate leaves having more broadly wedge-shaped leaflets. Individual flowers have four tepals, usually tinged purplish and with the long stamens drooping. The spreading flower heads are made up of many small flowers and they can be hard to spot from a distance among dense grasses.

Lesser Meadow-rue Lesser Meadow-rue Lesser Meadow-rue Lesser Meadow-rue