Featured Plant: Pasque Flower

Common name: The name Pasque Flower refers to the religious holiday of Easter, when the flowers are often in bloom. In South Dakota, where it is the state flower, it is referred to as the May Day Flower, Prairie Crocus or Wind Flower.

Scientific name: Anemone patens (also known as Pulsatilla patens). Anemone: an ancient Greek name from anemos, “wind.”  patens: Latin for “spreading.”

Pasque Flower

Flowers on a Hilltop

With less than two months to go until the official start of spring it still seems a long way off. But when the snow finally clears and the hilltops warm in the ever higher sun, the Pasque Flower will be one of the earliest signs of life on the spring prairie.

Last spring Neil Diboll let me in on a great location, not far from Prairie Nursery, where native Pasque Flower adorns a hilltop every spring. Neil gave me directions and we were to meet up there late in the afternoon, as he was returning from a consulting job.

I arrived first and found the spot with no problem. My approach to the designated hill was by the Northwest side and as I began to climb upwards and out of the woods I was happy to find several Pasque Flower groups blooming along the hillside. Wow. What a find. I turned on my camera and started clicking away. The light wasn’t the best there, so I kept angling up the hill, shooting as I went. Upon cresting the hill I realized I had been on the fringe! The large domed hilltop was strewn with flowers. And the light was beautiful. After about 10 minutes of giddy Pasque Flower photo-taking, Neil showed up and we continued the photo shoot together.

Here are some photos from that afternoon, March 22, 2012.

Anemone patens

One of the earliest perennials to bloom in a prairie, Pasque Flower is an uncommon plant
that has been extirpated from many areas because of modern development.

Pasque Flower

Native to both North America and Eurasia, it inhabits hill prairies and gravel prairies.
Barrens with scant woody vegetation are preferred as this reduces competition from other plants.
The preference is full sun, dry conditions, and a gritty soil containing gravel or rocky material. Root rot can be a problem if the soil becomes waterlogged from poor drainage.

pasque flower

Pasque Flower is only about 6” high with a delicate, near transcluscent petals
that can range in color from white to lavender.

pasque flower

The flowers emerge before the leaves, often just after the snow has melted.
The delightful furry leaves remain well into the summer.

pasque flower

The silvery plume-like seedhead is also a treasure.


While we do grow this plant on occasion, this species is currently unavailable.



  1. Chris Russell

    I have seen the pasque flower before but never a white one! Is that in Wisconsin? Was it blooming in March last year because of our early spring or will it normally bloom this early? Also, I do some oil painting and would love to get your permission to paint one of your pictures! What great pleasure we can get from nature.

    1. mary (Post author)

      Hi Chris,
      Feel free to use the photos as reference for your painting, that would be super.
      The North American native Pasque Flower, or at least the ones in this region, are typically white to light lavender. There’s a European Pulsatilla vulgaris that is lavender to violet. Last spring the blooms were early, but Pasque Flower will bloom as soon as the soil warms up. Like the crocus (in fact it is called Prairie Crocus) it can even bloom in the snow.

  2. Neil

    Hi Mary! What a beautiful blog post! The story is great, and your photos are absolutely stunning. They brought back fond memories of a splendid late afternoon on Pasque Flower Hill.

    1. mary (Post author)

      Thanks Neil – I should have posted some of your photos, too! If you can easily get to them, send a few on to me.
      I plan to go there again, this year.

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