Many suggest that Spring has arrived in the Rocky Mountains when the first Pasqueflowers begin to bloom. The Pasqueflower is also called Windflower, Easter Flower, or Wild Crocus and is one of the very first wildflowers to bloom in Springtime at altitudes from 8,000 to 11,500 feet. The blossoms appear before the leaves and last for many days as the plant develops.
The scientific name for Pasqueflower is Pulsatilla patens Ssp. multifida. Pulsatilla is from the Latin, “pulsing”, that probably refers to the blood of sacrificial lambs of Passover. Pasque alludes to Easter or Hebrew “pesach” for Passover due to the flower’s early blooming time.
The cup-shaped blossoms are up to 2 inches across comprised of 5 to 7 lavender to purple sepals (most times green but sometimes form around the plant like colorful petals). The sepals are hairy outside and a paler color inside. The leaves are at the base of the plant and are on stalks that are divided into many narrow, pointed segments. The stems and leaves are covered with fine silky hairs Pasqueflowers often grow in groups and reach heights of 12 to 16 inches. They are found in open forests, meadows, clearings, and sometimes in snowmelt from Montane to Subalpine zones. The Pasqueflowers shown here were photographed in South Park, Colorado at an altitude of over 10,000 feet.
Go out and look for the Pasqueflower, but don’t wait too long. By late Spring or early Summer, the colorful flowers are replaced with feathery plumes of seed pods. Note also to enjoy the flowers with your eyes only as all parts of the plant are poisonous and can cause skin irritation. This member of the Buttercup Family, Ranunculaceae, is known for its poison as well as its medicinal properties and has been used by Native Americans for centuries.
The Pasqueflower is one of over 285 wildflowers featured in the handy pocket-sized book Rocky Mountain Wildflowers Field Guide that includes common, scientific and family names plus descriptions, flowering times, habitat, life zones and large, clear photographic images. The book is available on Amazon and at www.highcountryartworks.com.