In late spring and early summer, look for Tassel Rue growing along the banks of mountain streams. I recently spotted it at two of my favorite hiking places along the Blue Ridge Parkway: Rock Castle Creek Gorge and Crabtree Falls.
The small flowers of tassel rue grow in a panicle at the top of each plant. The flowers are about 3/4” wide and lack petals. The white “flower” that you see is simply an explosion of long, white stamens surrounding a superior, green ovary.
Most of the leaves on this perennial are basal, although a few smaller leaves might alternate up the flower stem. Each basal leaf has a long petiole and is palmately divided into 5-11 segments. The leaf margins are toothed (see above).
Tassel Rue leaves can vary in size –up to 12 inches wide or more! The entire plant is 2-4 feet tall at maturity.
Other common names for this plant include False Bugbane and Carolina Bugbane (because of its similarity to Cimicifuga (bugbane).
Tassel Rue is considered poisonous because it contains a chemical that causes skin irritation when handled. Use caution!