Pulsatilla vernalis & Pulsatilla patens P. patens x vernalis P. patens x vernalis Zoom

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Spring Pasque Flower

Pulsatilla vernalis

  • Name also: Pale Pasque-flower
  • Latin synonym: Anemone vernalis
  • Family: Buttercup Family – Ranunculaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock short, erect, weakly tufted.
  • Height: 5–20 cm (2–8 in.), in fruiting stage up to 35 cm (14 in.). Stem unbranched, hairy, leafless apart from whorl underneath flower, extends after flowering.
  • Flower: Perianth regular (actinomorphic)–campanulate, inner surface white, outer surface yellow, reddish brown, violet or bluish, approx. 6 cm (2.4 in.) wide. Tepals 6 borne in 2 whorls, inner clearly wider than outer, outer surface usually covered in brown hairs. Stamens many, anthers yellow. Gynoecium separate, with many pistils. Flower solitary, terminating scape, initially almost erect.
  • Leaves: Basal leaves long-stalked, overwintering, leathery, long-haired. Blade pinnate; leaflets 3–5, obliquely obovate, pinnatifid–divided. Upper leaves borne in a whorl below flower, fused at base, finely lobed, curved, brownish violet, with long, yellow hairs.
  • Fruit: Reddish brown, approx. 3 mm (0.12 in.) long achene, tip with 2–5 cm long (0.8–2 in.), long-haired bristle. Achenes often together.
  • Habitat: Sloping pine forests, gravelly meadows, sandy heather and cowberry moors.
  • Flowering time: April–June.
  • Endangerment: Vulnerable, protected in all of Finland. Also the hybrid Pulsatilla patens × vernalis (a cross between spring pasque flower and eastern pasque flower) is protected.

Spring pasque flower is probably the most beautiful thing that grows on the bare heaths of inner Finland when the snow melts and the growing season begins. In the old days it was popular in bunches for Mothers’ Day at the beginning of May, and it was collected wholesale to be sold in local markets. When the species began to become rarer because of this it was made illegal to collect or sell it in 1926, and it was protected completely in 1952. Spring pasque flower was the first plant to be covered by the Nature Conservation Act, but it has since been joined by a couple of hundred other species. Unfortunately, however, protection does not include digging the ridge underneath the plants, or destroying the habitat in other ways.

Spring pasque flower is one of Finland’s largest wild flowers: a completely open flower is almost ten centimetres in diameter. The flower opens only for a short time during the late morning, as the spring sun spreads its warmth. Unlike other pasque flowers, spring pasque flower offers nectar as a reward to pollinators. The ripening achene grows a long, feathery flying hair and the seed can float on the wind for a long time. Spring pasque flower has apparently spread to Finland from the south immediately after the Ice Age, probably along Salpausselkä ridge to the west and along other ridges to the south and especially to the north. Its westernmost habitat is around Hämeenlinna, where it meets its relative, the rare eastern pasque flower (P. patens), whose flower is even larger and is bluish violet in colour. It is quite common for the species to breed in common areas. Hybrids share aspects of their different parents and have quite varying appearances. Spring pasque flower is the regional flower of South Karelia.

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

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