An ancient and unusual plant from North America
The flowers of this unusual aquatic plant, which seems to have become more popular in cultivation in recent years, are held in an inflorescence (flower head) that is said by some to resemble a single anemone flower. I can’t see it myself, and suspect that this is based on an assumption as to the origin of the name Anemopsis, when in fact the name has nothing to do with anemones. The genus was initially named Anemia until it was pointed out that this name was already taken by a group of ferns, and so it was later changed to Anemopsis.
Anemopsis californica (a member of the Saururaceae family) belongs to an ancient group of flowering plants, the magnoliids, which are characterised by flower parts in multiples of 3 (like the monocots, but unlike most other dicots) and which also includes the nutmeg, laurel, custard apple, black pepper and magnolia families. In fact, if anything the inflorescence reminds me of a single magnolia flower although unlike magnolias, which have large, solitary flowers, Anemopsis californica flowers are tiny and arranged on short spikes, at the base of which are 6 large, petal-like bracts, reminiscent of the petals of a Magnolia stellata flower.
In the wild, Anemopsis californica grows in southwestern USA and Mexico, where it forms dense stands in wet, alkaline soils. The leaves, creeping stems and roots are aromatic and contain essential oils which are thought to have medicinal qualities. In our garden, it is content growing in a submerged basket pot in the pond, along with fellow North American aquatic Penthorum sedoides, where it flowers in summer and autumn.
Countries where Anemopsis californica grows in the wild.