Devon Wildlife Trust A spring delight, the Wood anemone grows in dappled shade in ancient woodlands. Traditional management, such as coppicing, can help such flowers by opening up the woodland floor to sunlight. The Wood anemone is a pretty spring flower of ancient woodlands, and is also planted in graveyards, parks and gardens. Its white flowers bloom between March and May, before the canopy becomes too dense, but its seeds are mostly infertile and it spreads slowly through the growth of its roots.

How to identify

An easily recognisable flower, the Wood anemone is a low-growing plant, with six to seven large, white or purple-streaked 'petals' (which are actually its sepals), surrounding a cluster of distinctive yellow anthers. Its leaves are deeply lobed and it has a thin, red stem. 


Devonshire Association The Botany Section was founded in 1908 to promote the study and enjoyment of Devon’s wild plants, including bryophytes (mosses), lichens and fungi.


Devon Biodiversity Record Centre Submit your sightings of Wood Anemones and other species in Devon 

Ancient Woodlands Inventory Review As part of a national initiative driven by The Woodland Trust and Natural England, DBRC has formed a large county partnership to fund this review in Devon.  The existing inventory managed by NE is over 30years old and has limitations associated with hand mapping pre GIS, and current technology.  The historical threshold of including sites over 2ha is also becoming more of an issue in relation to modern planning and conservation needs.  Devon is a historic landscape which has seen many areas of woodland fragmented by development, and changes in land use/land management, and there is poor representation on the inventory of the county’s many smaller but highly important sites – leaving them potentially vulnerable to threats in coming years.  Using the latest datasets and technology, alongside robust historical evidence, over the next three years DBRC will review many thousands of aerial photo images, maps and text from archives, to complete this project.  There will be opportunities for volunteers to assist in some elements, and as ancient woodland has deep connections with ancient folklore and the historical environment, this project may appeal to a wider audience. For example, place names can be associated with landscape features such as historical woods and treescapes.  Communities where these woods and the special quality they can bring are valued, will be able to help ground-truth the new map being developed and ensure sites are correctly represented on it. This will increase the ability of the AWI to protect this natural and irreplaceable asset for future generations. 


Photo: Grant Sherman Wood Anemones in Dartridge Wood, Chulmleigh 3rd April 2021


Woodland Trust Sun-loving, gentle, a mark of the old. Wood anemone is one of the first spring blooms, arriving to take in the light through the leafless canopy in broadleaf woodland. Look for them in old and ancient woodland that suits their slow growth. 

Star-shaped and often seen covering the floor of mature deciduous woodland, wood anemone is a spring showstopper.

Leaves: each leaf displays three visible lobes and the stalks are long. The leaves are basal, meaning they are in a rosette at the base of the plant.

Flowers: petals are white, with a pinkish tinge. Many distinct yellow anthers are visible.

Could be confused with: wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) at a distance. Though the plants are similar, wood sorrel has distinctive pink veins in its white petals and the leaves are different in shape, with a rounded, heart-shaped appearance compared to the deeply lobed leaves of the wood anemone. 



Plantlife  One of the first flowers of spring, wood anemones bloom like a galaxy of stars across the forest floor. As a species it's surprisingly slow to spread (six feet in a hundred years!), relying on the growth of its root structure rather than the spread of its seed. As such, it is a good indicator of ancient woodland.

How to spot it Solitary star-like white flowers with 5-8 petals, often pinkish underneath. Long-stalked stem leaves divided into three lobes, with each lobe divided. (Source: the National Plant Monitoring Scheme Species Identification Guide).

Colonies of wood anemones with purple or purple-streaked petals are frequent e.g. in Norfolk, but the sky-blue type (var. caerulea) is much rarer or possibly lost. It was a favourite of William Robinson, the 19th century pioneer of 'wild gardening' who carefully distinguished it from the occasionally naturalised European blue anemone.

Where it grows Deciduous woodlands, particularly ancient ones. Also hedges and shaded banks. In the Yorkshire dales it is frequently found in limestone pavements. In many places the colonies could be relics of previous woodland cover, but its liking for light (it only opens fully in sunshine and does not grow in deep shade) suggests that it may not have purely woodland origins. 


Royal Horticultural Society Anemone are herbaceous perennials with fibrous, rhizomatous or tuberous rootstocks, palmately lobed leaves and saucer-shaped, usually 5-petalled flowers

Details A. nemorosa is a dwarf herbaceous perennial to 20cm in height, with a slender rhizome and deeply cut leaves. Solitary flowers with about 7 white petals, sometimes flushed pink on reverse 


National Biodiveristy Network The NBN Atlas is a collaborative project that aggregates biodiversity data from multiple sources and makes it available and usable online. It is the UK’s largest collection of freely available biodiversity data.

Anemone nemorosa 


Wikipedia Anemonoides nemorosa (syn. Anemone nemorosa), the wood anemone, is an early-spring flowering plant in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae, native to Europe. Other common names include windflower, thimbleweed, and smell fox, an allusion to the musky smell of the leaves. It is a perennial herbaceous plant growing 5–15 cm (2–6 in) tall. 

follow Hartstongue on social media


Twitter  Facebook  YouTube  Instagram LinkedIn