Aerial shoots 5-35(-60) cm, from tubers with rhizomes near apex, tubers ascending or vertical, rhizomes horizontal or ascending. Basal leaves 1-3(-5), 1-2-ternate; petiole 3-9(-10) cm; terminal leaflet petiolulate, rarely sessile, obtriangular, 2-3-cleft, 1-3 × 0.8-2(-2.5) cm, base narrowly attenuate to strongly and narrowly cuneate, margins serrate, rarely dissected on distal 2/3, apex obtuse to broadly acute, surfaces glabrous; lateral leaflets ±pinnately 1-2(-3)×-lobed or -parted; ultimate lobes 2-10 mm wide. Inflorescences 1-flowered; peduncle proximally glabrous, distally villous; involucral bracts 3, borne below middle of scape at anthesis, 1-tiered, simple, ±similar to basal leaves, obtriangular, 3-cleft, 1-2.5 cm, bases somewhat clasping, connate, margins incised on distal 1/2, apex acuminate, surfaces sparsely pilose; segments 3, broadly linear; lateral segments 1-2×-lobed or -parted; ultimate lobes 1-2.5 mm wide. Flowers: sepals 10-20(-30), white to rose or blue to purple, linear to oblong, (6-)10-20(-22) × 2-5(-7) mm, abaxially sparsely hairy, adaxially glabrous or nearly so; stamens 50-60. Heads of achenes fusiform; pedicel (5-)10-20 cm. Achenes: body ovoid, 1.5-2.5(-3) × ca. 2 mm, not winged, densely woolly; beak straight, 1.3-2 mm, projecting beyond achene indument, proximally tomentose, not plumose. 2n=16.
Phenology: Flowering winter–spring (Feb–Apr).
Habitat: Dry prairies, barrens, pastures, meadows, rocky, open woods
Ala., Ark., Ga., Ill., Iowa, Kans., La., Minn., Miss., Mo., Nebr., Okla., S.C., S.Dak., Tenn., Tex., Wis.
Anemone caroliniana was recorded from Indiana (Vigo County); it has since been extirpated.