Narcissus Anemone

Anemone narcissiflora (Ranunculaceae)

Photo from RMBL Archives
Anemone narcissiflora is a perennial seed producing herb, with leaves at the base of the stem. It has white flowers, and is often confused with Trollius albus, the Globeflower, which may grow in the same habitat. The narcissa anemone has bright white flowers and hairy stems and leaves, while the Globeflower has pale yellow flowers and stems and leaves that are not hairy. The fruits also differ, the globeflower has many-seeded follicles, while the narcissa anemone has single-seeded achenes. Growing to be approximately 30-45 cm tall, the narcissa anemone prefers to bloom in May through June in North America.

Distribution and Habitat
Narcissa anemone occurs in Colorado, Wyoming, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Alaska. It prefers grassy moist areas in alpine tundra where it grows on hillsides and in open meadows that supply adequate drainage. The plant can withstand minimum temperatures of -26.2 to -28.8 degrees C, and maximum temperatures of 6.7 to 9.4 degrees C. Tolerable soil pH varies from 6.1 – 7.8. Abiotic factors that influence the growth of the narcissa anemone are the cold temperatures of alpine tundra and drainage availability.


The narcissa anemone can protect itself from predators through its production of protoanemonin. This chemical is a byproduct of the glycoside ranunculin. Irritating and bitter in taste, this poisonous oil causes topical irritation if touched and gastrointestinal irritation if consumed. This chemical becomes harmless once the plant has dried.

Ecological Relationships
The ptarmigan consumes the leaves, flowers, and nectar of the narcissa anemone. This bird is native to alpine tundra, and likes to breed in areas where water and willow shrubs are nearby. Narcissa anemone also grows in these areas. Sheep have been known to feed off of this plant, but if they consume protoanemonin they will suffer from gastrointestinal discomfort. Bees and flies (species and genus unknown) help to pollinate this plant.

Status and Conservation
Conservation implications are difficult to determine. Humans threaten the long-term survival of this species through habitat destruction. Since this plant prefers colder climates, global warming threatens the habitat. There are no known management practices to conserve this plant, but conservations of wild habitats and reduction of pollution are necessary for this species to continue to thrive.

Many thanks to Jesse Schmidt and Dr. Pat Magee of Western State College for this submission, and to Diana Cosand of Chaffey College for her review and additions. Photo credit to Kathy Darrow.

Savchenko, T. Whiting, P. Sarker, and S. Dinan, L. 1998. Analysis of species of the Ranunculaceae for ecdysteroid agonists and antagonists -II. Ecdysteroids in the genus Anemone. Biochem Sys Ecol. (26) 1 pp. 131-134.