Pasque In Its Glory

May 3, 2018
By Timothy Winter-Nelson ’20

Pasque Flowers at McKnight Prairie

The pasque flower (Anemone patens) is one of the very first prairie flowers to bloom in the spring. These small flowers can be found on top of hills in the prairie and identified by their six lavender petals, and the fact that they are the only flower around. In addition to their luscious petals, these bad-boys tote a solar array of numerous stamens, blazing like a beacon from the midst of the petals. They are also coated in some exciting little fuzz which helps to insulate them when they emerge, which is often while there is still snow on the ground. In addition to keeping the plant warm, the hairy stalk of a pasque flower keeps people who rub it happy, because it is super soft.

In addition to their beauty and fuzziness, pasque flowers have a wide variety of medicinal qualities, including but not limited to use as a diaphoretic, diuretic, or salve. Feisty critters that these flowers are, they can cause depression, nervousness, and intestinal distress when being used as medicine, so caution is advised.

The pasque flower—also known as the Eastern pasque flower, the prairie crocus, or the cutleaf anemone—and its close relatives can be found in prairies ranging from the arctic circle to the southern United States, across Europe, Asia, and North America. Included in that range, of course, is Northfield, and these audacious little plants are blooming this very instant in the Cowling Arboretum and McKnight Prairie (unless you are reading this in the Fall or something, in which case they aren’t). Although they have not yet gained the world-wide recognition that these fame-fated flowers deserve, they are the state flower of South Dakota, as well as the provincial flower of Manitoba—it’s a start.

-Timothy Winter-Nelson ’20 for the Cole Student Naturalists

Photos Courtesy of Christian Heuchert '20 and Nancy Braker.