Yellowstone Natural History: Pasqueflower

If you’ve visited Yellowstone at all this past week, you’ve probably noticed the purplish pasqueflower heads springing up on the hillsides.

Hailed as one of the heralds of spring in Yellowstone National Park, the pasqueflower has delighted visitors for decades.

A higher altitude wildflower, it blooms shortly after the snow melts on steppes and meadows. It has been found between 5,600 and 9,600 feet in elevation.

Also known as the Eastern pasqueflower, prairie crocus and cutleaf anemone, the pasqueflower can be found across most of the Great Plains and West, as far north as Saskatchewan and as far south as Texas. Indeed, it is the state flower in both South Dakota and Manitoba, Canada.

anemone or pasque flower 1905 wild flowers of the yellowstone nprr

Most likely, the pasqueflower has grown in Yellowstone National Park for a long time. You can see a pressed specimen above, preserved in a 1905 booklet issued by the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, “Wild flowers from the Yellowstone: a collection of wild flowers from Yellowstone National Park.”

It’s also a common flower in Sweden, where it’s called the nipsippa.

Fun Facts

In Europe, the pasqueflower has a close association with Easter (the name alone, Pasque, shows this) both since it pops up in spring and because it produces a bright dye—a dye cherished by medieval textile makers back in the day.

Some botanists closely link the pasqueflower (genus Pulsatilla) with the anemone (genus Anemone), a flower that carries rich mythological significance.

For instance, Sir James George Frazer, in his opus The Golden Bough, links the anemone to Adonis, citing a legend that the flower (called in the text an anemone) sprung from the blood of Adonis. Ovid, in his epic Metamorphoses, relates a similar story, where Aphrodite sprinkles nectar on pools of Adonis’ blood.

Where To See In Yellowstone

As mentioned, the pasqueflower blooms at high elevations around Yellowstone. The best place to see it is along Yellowstone’s Northern Range. Mammoth Hot Springs, for instance, is good headquarters for wildflower spotting.

About Sean Reichard

Sean Reichard is the editor of Yellowstone Insider and author of Yellowstone Insider For Families 2017.

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