Missing from today’s entry and previous entries on Anemone occidentalis is a photograph of the flower. One of today’s photographers, Emma Harrower, has a good example here: Anemone occidentalis.
Note: this an entry written by Tamara Bonnemaison while she was the BPotD Work-Learn student a few years ago, but never published. — Daniel
A few summers ago, my family and I did a three-day hike in E.C. Manning Provincial Park. We were smitten by the fields of Anemone occidentalis swaying in the breeze. Luckily, we hit three days of solid sunshine: three days of sunrises and sunsets glowing through the persistent styles that form the puffy fruiting heads of these beautiful wildflowers! Not knowing what these were, we came up with our own name for them: Doctor Seuss flowers, as they reminded us of the whimsical plant forms drawn by the famous children’s author. We were not alone in creating fun common names for this species. It is also called mop-tops, globe flower, tow-headed babies, hippy heads, or simply western anemone. In the hands of my two boys, they also became alien antennae. These were autopsied to discover that, yes, those were “seeds” under all of that fluff (actually what we saw were the many dry achenes, each developing from a single carpel–the first BPotD entry on Anemone occidentalis illustrates this well.
Funnily enough, I spent that entire trip also admiring an anemone species in flower in the places where the alpine snow had just melted. These sturdy solitary flowers contained many yellow stamens and green pistils ringed by 5-7 white or purple-tinged sepals (no petals!). It wasn’t until a pair of fit hikers, in head-to-toe khaki, told us that our “Doctor Seuss” plant was Anemone occidentalis that I understood that the flowering anemone and the strange fruiting head belonged to the same species. On second examination, it was quite obvious that the basal leaves, consistently divided into three leaflets and then again split into narrow linear segments , were the same on both sets of plants that I had been admiring. My excuse–the flowers and fruiting heads were so spectacular that I did not immediately notice any other parts of the plant!
One of the many things that makes alpine hiking fabulous is that it is often possible to see the same plant species in various life stages. If you have five minutes to spare to watch a flower grow, this video shows the growth and development of Anemone occidentalis throughout the course of a year. Of course, you could also plan a trip to most alpine areas of the Pacific Northwest this summer to see the plant for yourself!