waxy leaf meadow-rue

(Thalictrum revolutum)

Conservation Status


No image available

  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNR - Unranked

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACW - Facultative wetland


FAC - Facultative

  Northcentral & Northeast

FAC - Facultative


Waxy leaf meadow-rue is a 3 to 7 tall, erect, perennial, foul-smelling forb that rises from rhizomes. Staminate flowers (male) and pistillate flowers (female) are borne on separate plants. It often forms colonies.

Stems are erect, stout, hairless, and covered with a whitish, waxy coating (glaucous). They are occasionally branched in the upper half. They are green when young becoming reddish purple with maturity.

The leaves are alternate. Lower stem leaves are on leaf stalks, middle and upper leaves are stalkless. They are 3 or 4 times ternate—divided into 3 main divisions (ternate), each division further divided into 3 segments (biternate), each segment further divided into 3 leaflets (triternate), or once more divided. The leaflets are leathery, variable in shape, to 2 long, ¼ to 2 wide, 1 to 5 times, but usually no more than 2¾ times, as long as wide. The larger leaflets are divided into 2 to 5 but usually 2 or 3 lobes. The lobes are untoothed or occasionally have a few additional teeth. Smaller leaflets may be unlobed. The margins are rolled backward toward the underside. The upper surface is hairless. The lower surface is covered with whitish glandular hairs making it whitish and waxy in appearance, and has a network of conspicuous, prominent (raised) veins. When crushed the stems and leaves produce a skunk-like smell.

The male inflorescence is a large, open, showy, branched cluster at the end of the stems and branches. It is up to 2 tall and 1 wide.

Male flowers have usually 4 but up to 6 whitish petal-like sepals. There are no petals. They droop at the end of short stalks. The sepals often drop off early leaving about 12 stamens with white filaments and yellow anthers. The flowers do not produce petals or nectar to attract insects. They are wind pollinated.

The fruit is an achene a little over long.




3 to 7


Flower Color




Similar Species


Tall meadow-rue (Thalictrum dasycarpum) has hairy but not glandular lower leaf surfaces. The foliage is not skunk-scented.

Early meadow-rue (Thalictrum doicum) is a much smaller plant, 12 to 28 at maturity. All leaves, including middle and upper leaves, are on long stalks. The leaflets have 3 to 12 often round-toothed lobes. The flowers bloom earlier, April to May. It is found in woodlands, not prairies.


Dry. Prairies, thickets, open woods. Full to partial sun.




June to July




Distribution Map



3, 4, 5, 28.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Ranunculanae  


Ranunculales (buttercups, poppies, and allies)  


Ranunculaceae (buttercups)  
  Subfamily Thalictroideae (columbines and meadow-rues)  


Thalictrum (meadow-rue)  

Subordinate Taxa




Thalictrum amphibolum

Thalictrum hepaticum

Thalictrum moseleyi

Thalictrum revolutum var. glandulosior


Common Names


purple meadowrue

skunk meadowrue

waxy leaf meadow-rue

waxy meadowrue

waxyleaf meadowrue

waxyleaf meadow-rue

wax-leaved meadowrue












A dry, one-chambered, single-seeded fruit, formed from a single carpel, with the seed attached to the membranous outer layer (wall) only by the seed stalk; the wall, formed entirely from the wall of the superior ovary, does not split open at maturity, but relies on decay or predation to release the contents.


Glandular hairs

Hairs spread over aerial vegetation that secrete essential oils. The oils act to protect against herbivores and pathogens or, when on a flower part, attract pollinators. The hairs have a sticky or oily feel.



Pale green or bluish gray due to a whitish, powdery or waxy film, as on a plum or a grape.



Refers to leaves that are divided into three leaflets or sections.

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