Common Names

This lovely flower is known under a variety of names, the most familiar being prairie anemone, American Pulsatilla, Easter-flower, wild crocus, prairie-smoke, and sand-flower.

Pasque Flower

Pasque Flower Plate XIV.

Description

The pasque flower is one of the most beautiful of the prairie spring flowers. It is a perennial, with a single, large, cup-shaped, violet-coloured flower, which opens before the silky grey-green leaves have appeared above ground. The fruit cluster is interesting, as each seed has a long feathery appendage which aids it in dissemination. The leaves, which appear later, are finely dissected. The plant is in bloom from early in March to April and sometimes in May.

Distribution

This native plant is common on the prairies from Manitoba to British Columbia.

Poisonous Properties

Pammel says it is a "very poisonous plant. The different parts of the plant are entirely acrid and, when applied to the skin, cause irritation and vesication. The acridity of the plant is due to the presence of a crystalline substance called anemonine." Lloyd states: "The vapours evolved from the fresh juice are of such an acrid nature as to have inflamed the eyes and have closed them temporarily. For this reason persons refuse to work with the fresh herb."

It is interesting to note that Mr. T. N. Willing drew the attention of stockmen to the injury caused by this plant in 1903 as follows: "Crocus Anemone. - This is a beautiful purplish cup-shaped flower that is very abundant in some localities in the early spring. Close observation on the part of some Alberta shepherds showed that deaths were frequent in a bunch of sheep after feeding greedily on these flowers, and a microscopical and chemical investigation by Professors Fletcher and Shutt, of Ottawa, proved that numerous balls of felt, composed of the fine hairs with which the plant is covered, formed in the stomachs and impaired the digestion to such an extent as to frequently prove fatal. I have, however, taken from an old sheep as many as seventeen balls which varied in size from a marble to a large egg. This ewe was known as a 'piner.' A shepherd should avoid letting his sheep graze where the anemone is abundant."