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Small Pasque Flower

Pulsatilla pratensis

  • Latin synonym: Anemone pratensis
  • Name also: Meadow Anemone, Small Pasque Flower, Wind Flower, True Meadow Anemone, Small Meadow Anemone.
  • Family: Buttercup Family – Ranunculaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock short, straight, lightly tufted.
  • Height: 5–25 cm (2–10 in.). Stem unbranched, full, hairy, leafless apart from whorl under flower, extends after flowering.
  • Flower: Perianth narrowly bell-shaped, reddish dark violet, 3–4 cm (1.2–1.6 in.) across. Perianth-segments (tepals) 6, blue to violet with white hairs on outer surface. Tepals all of almost same size, borne in 2 whorls. Perianth subtended by a whorl of stem leaves. Stamens numerous, anthers yellow. Several free carpels. Flowers solitary, nodding.
  • Leaves: In a basal rosette, stalked, stalks hairy, developing after flowering. Blade usually 3-pinnately lobed. Lobes narrow, up to 150 lobes on a leaf. Upper leaves a whorl under flower, approx. 30, united at base, quite broad, tips sparsely lobed, straight, white-hairy.
  • Fruit: Approx. 3 mm (0.12 in.) long achene, terminated by a 5–6 cm (2–2.4 in.) long, hairy bristle. Achenes often together.
  • Habitat: Sandy and gravelly meadows, roadsides. Calciphilous.
  • Flowering time: April–May.

Pasque flowers are steppe plants that have spread to Finland during the continental climate after the Ice Age, when the ground was not so densely covered in vegetation. At that time they were probably just as common and abundant as they are today on e.g. eastern European steppes. Forestation limited the spread of pasque flowers in Finland, where they have only survived in the wild in mainly dry, sunny, ridged slopes and other similar habitats. Forest fires, sparse grazing and other slight disturbances only benefit pasque flowers as they can’t grow among dense vegetation.

Of the rare pasque flowers that grow wild in Finland, two are native: the very rare eastern pasque flower (P. patens) and the slightly more common spring pasque flower (P. vernalis). It has been assumed for a long time that small pasque flower, which grows quite close to the Finnish border in Estonia and the Karelian isthmus, is making its way towards Finland. Sightings have been repeatedly turned out to be false: they were actually spring pasque flowers whose tepals had closed up after flowering to protect developing seeds. A confirmed sighting beside a small road through a meadow on an archipelago fortress island however finally confirmed small pasque flower in Finland’s official register of flora. Pasque flowers’ achene terminates with the carpellary leaf’s long, soft-hairy down, which carries the seeds and lets them fly and spread over long distances. Like the other most common species in the genre, small pasque flower’s current area of distribution is very fragmented, and stands occur far from each other in small suitable patches. One would think that Finland would include sufficient suitable areas for small pasque flower to thrive: new stands could spread to e.g. slopes and moraines. Occasionally small pasque flower also appears in enthusiasts’ gardens, which can act as bridgeheads for the species to conquer Finland.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family
Trees and bushes from the same family

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