When a Western Anemone (Anemone occidentalis) produces seeds in summer, it looks like a fantastical plant from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book.
Many of the other common names for this plant– Dishmop, Towhead Baby, Old Man of the Mountains, Mouse-on-a-stick, Moptop– describe its appearance when it has a full head of seeds at the end of a long stalk (up to 24 inches; 60 cm).
These showy seed heads are conspicuous and lovely as they sway in the breezes that blow across mountain meadows.
Dozens of seeds form each cylindrical head. An individual seed is small, but it has a long, feathery tail. These tails give the seed head its tousled, moptop look.
The perennial Western Anemone produces large (1.5 to 2.5 inches; 4 to 7 cm), white flowers early in the season, as soon as the snow melts away. The flowers are very pretty in their own way, though they are less familiar to mountain travelers than the seed heads. Each flower opens at the end of a stalk and has from 5 to 8 petals.
The leaves are deeply divided and grow mostly close to the ground. The whole plant is generally quite fuzzy.
Western Anemone grows high in the mountains of the northwest, in subalpine meadows and on rocky slopes. It can be found in the Olympic Mountains and the Cascade Range.