Thimble flower is a native Anemone species more frequently found west of Minnesota in dry sunny habitats from British Columbia and Alberta to new Mexico and Kansas but growing as far east as Indiana and southern Ontario in suitable habitat (Cochrane and Iltis 2000). The plants pictured here are growing in my prairie plant garden and came originally from seeds collected from a roadside along the rocky bluffs in Duluth, Minnesota. Several other prairie species grew at that same location including porcupine grass (Stipa spartea), wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), yellow flax (Linum sulcatum), owls clover (Orthocarpus luteus), licorice mint (Agastache foeniculum), tall cinquefoil (Potentilla arguta), prairie cinquefoil (Potentilla pensylvanica), fasle sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides), Flodman’s thistle (Cirsium flodmanii), false penny-royal (Hedeoma hispida), purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea), and heath aster (Aster ericoides). All of these species and several others with prairie affinities had been noticed and documented between 1930 and 1940 from this location and several others on the bluffs along the same road. Their origins are unknown but it is doubtful they were intentionally planted as species like thimble flower, owl’s clover, prairie cinquefoil, tall cinquefoil, yellow flax, and false penny-royal are not large or showy plants.
Before roadwork obliterated much of this site I was able to collect plants and seeds of some species. Today, in my prairie plant garden there are clumps of licorice mint, false sunflower, wild bergamot, porcupine grass, purple prairie clover, and heath aster with the thimble flower. Mixed in with these are blazing star plants (Liatris aspera and L. pychnostachya), prairie rose (Rosa arkansana), golden banner (Thermopsis rhombifolia), white sage (Artemisia ludoviciana), and little blue-stem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) rescued from trails slated for “improvement” or being destroyed by ATV’s. I’ve added a few more species over the years which I found along railroad grades. One was a species of porcupine grass which I have been unable to identify to species. Another was a species of wild ground cherry (Physalis heterophylla) which is a perennial plant unlike the garden variety. Some rescued plants (the two cinquefoils, owl’s clover) lived for a while but then disappeared as more robust perennials filled in the bare spots where they grew. Others (white sage) became weedy and had to be thinned. Some (wild bergamot, licorice mint) took years to establish and spread. But a balance of sorts has been arrived at for now and each year from June to September there is a subtle display of colors and textures to enjoy.
References Cited or Consulted
Cochrane, T. S. and Iltis, H. H. (2000). Technical Bulletin No. 191. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and University of Wisconsin-Madison Herbarium.
Lakela, O. (1965). A Flora of Northeastern Minnesota. University of Minnesota Press.