Thursday, May 2, 2013

Prairie Pasqueflower

On a rainy, cold May Day 2013, Erika and I hiked to McKnight Prairie, managed by Carleton College. Our visit was not accidental—I knew this grassland harbors Prairie Pasqueflowers, and Scott King emailed us they were blooming now. Pasqueflowers (Pulsatilla patens), also known as Prairie Crocus, Wind Flower, or Eastern Pasqueflowers (despite their being absent from most of eastern North America), are among the first prairie flowers to appear, often just after the last winter snows (actually about five inches of snow fell later on May Day and night). Although hearty members of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), their blossoms are short-lived. This wildflower is the provincial flower of Manitoba and the state flower of South Dakota (where the lower photo was taken on a much more clement day).

The Dakota people noted this early appearance and believed "its song encouraged other plants to awaken from their winter sleep and come up from the heart of the earth” (Johnson 1999). European Pasqueflower, a closely related species, is often called Dane’s Blood because the wildflower was thought to germinate in places that had been soaked by Roman or Viking blood (Wikipedia).

The genus Pulsatilla is often used as an ingredient in homeopathic medicine, but is highly toxic. It produces cardiogenic toxins and oxytoxins which slow the human heart. Ingestion can also cause diarrhea, vomiting, convulsions, and coma. Blackfeet used pasqueflower to induce abortions and childbirth (Wikipedia)—today oxytoxin, if not pasqueflower, is used to induce labor.

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite spring flowers! Nice that you found them before the snow came :-)