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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Pasqueflower (Anemone patens)


Is there a rural North Dakotan who does not know the pasqueflower or "crocus?" Though sometimes not our first flower of spring, pasqueflower is certainly the showiest of the prairie wildflowers that can be expected to bloom in April. A widespread species, pasqueflower occurs throughout North Dakota and across much of the Northern Hemisphere.

Pasqueflower is perennial from a heavy caudex (toughened stem base). Plants are about 8 inches tall and usually have several stems. In spring, the plant is well insulated with fine silky hairs. This plant is unusual in that it flowers when the leaves are just beginning to develop. Leaves are divided into 3-7 narrow segments. The solitary (one per stem) flowers are about two inches wide. Petals are dark lavender to nearly white and the central cluster of stamens is yellow. In fruit, the stems elongate. Fruit is an achene bearing a plume (the style) about an inch long.

Pasqueflowers bloom first on hillsides in heavily grazed or fall- burned native prairies. The lack of old, dead plant material (duff or litter) on these sites allows the soil to warm up rapidly so this plant can get an early start. Pasqueflowers dried at flowering time were formerly used medicinally in many parts of the world.

Pasqueflower is a member of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). Ranunculus is Latin for "a little frog", the name applied by Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.) to a group of plants in this family that grows where frogs abound. The family contains our hepaticas, clematis', and columbine. The generic name Anemone is an ancient Greek and Latin corruption of the Semitic name for Adonis, from whose blood a red-flowered plant of the Orient is said to have sprung. The specific epithet patens means "spreading" as applied to the cluster of stems. Pasqueflower was first described by the famous Swedish naturalist and founder of modern plant taxonomy Carl von Linne (Linnaeus) in 1753.


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