Tall Meadow Rue

Thalictrum pubescens


Also known as King of the Meadow, this elegant wildflower reaches heights of up to 7′ tall! Preferring consistently moist soil, it is often found along streams or woodland edges in the wild. However, it is also adaptable to average garden soil if sheltered from hot afternoon sun and watered well during dry spells. Clusters of tiny threadlike flowers are held high on tall stems in mid-summer. Only the female flowers produce seeds and under ideal circumstances this native reseeds readily.


Other Common Names: Late Meadow Rue, King of the Meadow, Muskrat Weed

Family: Ranunculaceae

USDA Zones: 3 – 8

Life Cycle: Herbaceous Perennial

Height: 3.00′ – 7.00′

Spread: 2.00′ – 3.00′

Sun: Part Shade – Full Shade (Full Sun with Wet Feet)

Soil: Rich Humus, Moist Loam, Floodplain, Neutral to Slightly Acidic, Abundant Organic Matter

Moisture: Medium – Wet

Bloom Time: June – August

Bloom Color: White

Uses: Naturalize, Rain Garden, Back of the Border, Woodland Garden

Native Range: BONAP Map

Native Range Color Key: Dk. Green = Present in State and Native, Lt. Green= Present and Not Rare, Yellow = Present and Rare, Gold = Not Present in State, Teal = Present and Exotic, Cross-Hatched = Questionable Presence


  • Naturalizes best in continually moist soil
  • Mostly dioecious; male/female flowers on separate plants
  • May need support after heavy wind/rain
  • Deer & rabbit resistant
  • Black Walnut juglone tolerant
  • Able to withstand occasional spring floods
  • Foliage yellows/fades early in drought conditions
  • Leaves may be confused with Eastern Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), especially in early spring before flowering occurs.



Relatively disease and pest free. As this plant is host to several species of moths, the caterpillars may defoliate the plant in mid summer. For this reason, some may view these larvae as “pests”. However, Tall Meadow Rue has an important relationship with them as an essential host. Though bare stalks may be unsightly in a garden setting, this does not kill the plant. It will return with new growth the following spring. Start looking for Canadian Owlet caterpillars around the 4th of July! Leafless stalks and tiny round pieces of frass (poop) on the leaves are indicators that they may be present.

As seen in the photos above, early Canadian Owlet instars are light green all over with a row of black dots down their sides. They have a sort of translucent appearance. Mid-development, the caterpillars are larger and take on dark markings with a more opaque bluish-green color. They can often be seen feeding side-by-side with earlier instars. In the last stages (see photos below) they are solid black underneath. When the growing process is complete, the larvae crawl down to the base of the plant. They may overwinter underground or in a cocoon buried in leaf litter until they can emerge as adults the following spring.

Preserving overwintering insects, cocoons, or amphibians is one important reason not to rake up or destroy all the leaf litter in your yard in the fall (or early spring). Don’t like having things look messy? Consider leaving even a small portion of your yard “natural”, perhaps in a place that may be less visible to the public eye.

PLEASE NOTE: Like all native plants, Tall Meadow Rue is an important food source for many creatures. Some years they may be more affected by insects/caterpillars than others. However, these creatures provide essential food for birds and other wildlife as part of a balanced, intricate food web. Instead of reaching for pesticides at the first sign of leaf damage, consider grabbing your magnifying glass or binoculars and observe what visitors are frequenting your amazing native plant!


July 11, 2020 Meadow Rue in it’s natural habitat along a stream bank with wild blackberries, wild clematis, and elderberry shrubs
Lacy foliage gives this clump-forming perennial an airy, delicate appearance.


In order to provide the maximum benefit to pollinators, it is best to plan for a succession of blooms. This ensures that as one species fades, another begins to blossom. In this way, a constant source of nectar and pollen is provided from spring through fall. The following natives enjoy similar growing conditions to Thalictrum pubescens :

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