Colorful “crocus”

Although there is a great preponderance of white spring flowers (highlighted in the previous post), there are some bright spots of color appearing in the landscape now as well.

A bright orange crocus (?) blooming right outside the Roberts Bird Sanctuary in Minneapolis.

A bright orange crocus blooming right outside the Roberts Bird Sanctuary in Minneapolis.  

Crocus are the real harbingers of spring, as they poke right up through late-melting snow and tolerate an occasional spring snowfall, often the first spot of color in the drab landscape.

Pasque flowers like the drier, rocky sites between conifers.  You might almost overlook them until the blossoms open to reveal that bright purple interior.

Pasque flowers like the drier, rocky sites between conifers and open prairie  landscapes. You might almost overlook them until the blossoms open to reveal that bright purple interior.

A closer view shows the hairy pubescence of the leaves and stems which probably help the plant retain some warmth in the early spring weather.

A closer view shows the hairy pubescence of the leaves and stems which probably help the plant retain some warmth in the early spring weather.

Pasque flowers, also called prairie crocus or Easter flower, are one of the earliest spring bloomers.  They are the state flower of South Dakota and the provincial flower of Manitoba, but Pulsatilla species can be found throughout Europe, Asia, as well as North America.  Like most cold climate plants, they grow close to the ground and are covered with downy, insulative hairs.

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An even closer view shows off the brilliant purple sepals that surround  the orange stamens and purple-tipped stigma of the flower.  

Pretty to look at, but noxious when eaten, as early herbalists learned.  This plant has a suite of cardiogenic toxins that can produce cardiovascular shock and coma.  However, Blackfeet Indian women used extracts of the plant to induce abortions or childbirth.

2 thoughts on “Colorful “crocus”

    • They really have some long fine hair on those stems. I wonder if those are the irritating sort of hairs that you find on other plants, or if it is just fine downy stuff.

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