“The chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech.”
That much quoted passage from Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac expresses the feelings many of us people of the prairie have for this floral gem. Leopold is considered the father of modern wildlife management, but he obviously had a soft spot for this plant that dares to flower even before all the snow has melted.
Spring is here! It became official for me when I saw my first pasque flower of the year flowering on the west end of the Turtle Mountains last week. As many of you know, the pasque flower is the unofficial symbol of spring here in the northern Great Plains. No doubt some of you listeners in the southern portion of the Prairie Public listening area have been seeing it for a week or more.
We certainly aren’t the first people to recognize the significance of the pasque flower blooming. Native Americans were keen observers of nature, and the Dakota gave the pasque flower special significance as the first flower of spring. Melvin Gilmore’s book Uses of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region, contains a translation of this Dakota song:
“I wish to encourage the children
Of other flower nations now appearing
All over the face of the earth;
So while they awaken from sleeping
And come up from the heart of the earth
I am standing here old and gray-bearded.”
And as the song notes, because the pasque flower is the earliest flower on the prairie and covered with long gray hairs, it would be “old and gray-bearded” when the rest of the plants began to come into appear.
Some people know the pasque flower as the wild crocus. However, the pasque flower is in the genus Anemone and is a member of the buttercup family. Don’t confuse it with the Garden crocus which is in the genus Crocus and is a member of the Iris family.
Pasque flower ranges over much of Prairie Public’s listening area, so you may have some pasque flowers blooming near you. Find some grassland or prairie nearby, and make a point of getting out and observing this spring icon and state flower of our neighbor to the south.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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