Windflower is a small plant of rocky slopes, meadows and tundra with white flowers (blue-tinged at the base) and divided leaves. Plants grow 5-20 cm tall from a branching caudex. The stems are white-hairy, while the leaves are glabrous and shiny dark green. The leaf blade is rounded in outline, divided by threes into wedge-shaped segments, the leaflets moderately cleft into obovate segments, with blunt tips. The stem leaves—arranged like a collar below the flower—are similar in shape and level of division, but smaller and without petioles. From each basal rosette, one perfect radially-symmetrical flower is produced on a long villous peduncle. The flowers—though they look like the picture book version of a flower—are actually atypical, as they have only tepals, and not true petals. The tepals are petal-like, ovate, cream to white, blue-tinged on the underside, and appressed hairy. Flowers have 70-80 yellow stamens. The fruiting head is an aggregate of achenes, spherical to ovate. The achenes (dry, indehiscent fruits) are white-wooly. Windflower is distinguished from other species of Anemone by the presence of wooly achenes and broad leaf segments.
Anemone parviflora is typically one of the first flowers seen in the spring.
Anemone parviflora is monoecious, with bisexual flowers. Many species of Anemone are both self-fertile and out-crossed (Lindell 1998), others are strictly out-crossing (Douglas and Cruden 1994). Though A. parviflora's pollination has not been studied, other species of the genus with similar flowers are bee-pollinated. The fruiting head is an aggregate of achenes with white-wooly hairs, aiding in wind dispersal.
Anemone species contain anemonin, a toxin. Leaves of A. parviflora were used as a briefly-applied poultice for skin abrasions (McKenna 1965 in Garibaldi 1999), or powdered and brewed into a 'peppery' tea for tuberculosis (Holloway and Alexander 1990).
Smallflowered anemone is an amphi-Beringian species that ranges widely in northern North America but only reaches the eastern tip of Eurasia in the Bering Strait region. This species occurs across Canada and reaches its southern limit in the Rocky Mountains of Utah and Colorado. Anemone parviflora occurs throughout Alaska and is also common in the mountains of Denali. It is found on both sides of the Alaska Range, frequent in the hills, but also occurring along rivers, such as the Foraker, McKinley and Toklat.
This species has a large elevation range, found from 185 to 1753 m in the Park. Its highest frequency of occurrence is in sites above 1100 m, but it is also common at 300-500 m. and peaks on slopes between 20-28 degrees. This species has a slight preference for north-facing slopes.