Pasqueflower’s risky business



Given our whiplash spring weather along the eastern edge of the Rockies, native plants and flowers have had to develop tricks for surviving whatever the clouds dish out. Take the beautiful  pasqueflower (Pulsatilla patens ssp. multifida). It’s one of the earliest wildflowers to bloom, usually showing up at Eastertime. (Not this year–first responders were a little late because of a dry February and March.)

The pasqueflower sports huge petals–a risky strategy for an early bloomer because to show a big face to the sky in March or April around here means opening yourself to large dumps of heavy springtime snow. Most early wildflowers are more prudent, exhibiting only tiny petals so they don’t have a chance of getting frozen solid by the next change in weather.

But, risky to the max, the pasqueflower puts out big, fleshy petals for everyone to enjoy. It does have one trick up its sleeve, though. It keeps the snow at arm’s length–or in this case hair’s length. The pasqueflower covers its broad petals with a coat of fine, silky hairs. When the snow comes–as it surely does–the ice cannot reach the fleshy petals because it cannot penetrate the layer of furry insulation. The flower is safe from freezing.

I hope you can see the fuzz on the pasqueflower petals. In person, it is thick and silky. I wanted to catch the flower in full bloom, with its petals forming a lovely wide-open bowl, but no luck. This photo, from a couple days ago, shows one of the two flowers I saw along the McClintock and Mesa trails, both of them closed. I returned yesterday with my camera hoping for another chance, but they were both gone. Disappeared.

Is the pasqueflower delicate? Yes. Ephemeral too. But strong and versatile enough not to be fazed by freezing cold and snow. With a furry coat of insulation, it’s prepared for spring. Even spring around here.pasqueflower open

Update May 17: Today I visited one of my favorite spots, Bald Mountain, a small peak 2000 feet higher in elevation than town. After sitting at the bench on the top and enjoying the view, I came down the north side, and there were two lovely pasqueflowers, one of them fully open.


3 Responses to Pasqueflower’s risky business

  1. Sally says:May 31, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Nice meeting you Priscilla– and great post. I hope you’ll submit something for next month’s Berry at Foothills Fancies.

  2. Kathleen Christensen says:April 23, 2010 at 9:26 am

    So interesting–thanks! And I love how you describe the weather around here this time of year as “whiplash spring weather.”