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Lavender Charm

Oldest son got tired of paying for Smugmug to host his photos so he let his account lapse. That means some of the pictures are missing from the Yukon wildflower posts I did at the old blog a couple of summers ago. Rather than spend time uploading the photos again on a blog that is obsolete, I’ve decided to repost the whole series here, newly uploaded photos included, over the course of this spring and summer. The first wildflower post highlights the pasque flower, which is busy blooming right now.
Photo by Andrew Stark 
Here in the Yukon, the first sign of spring’s new life is the lavender of the pasque flowers.* We call them crocuses—they look a bit like crocuses and bloom first thing in the spring like crocuses do—but they’re not really crocuses.
Several of the common names for this wildflower, like May Day flower, Easter flower, and spring crocus, point to its early blooming. We’d have to include pasque flower in that list, too, since the word pasque refers to Easter or Passover. The Blackfoot Indians called them napi, which translates to “old man,” and if you look at the photo above, you see why they found this name appropriate. More officially, they’re called pulsatilla vulgaris, which makes them sound a little naughty, but vulgaris simply means that they are the vulgar (or common) form of the pulsatilla family, the flower family so-named because of the pulsing dance the blossoms do in the spring wind.

These wind-waving beauties aren’t called common for nothing. You’ll find wild pasque flowers across western North America from Utah up through Alaska and as far west as Illinois. They prefer the prairies as habitat, and two prairie places, South Dakota and Manitoba, have designated the pasque flower as their official flower. Here in the mountains we look for them in clearings of wooded foothills.

Some people try to transplant these lovely lavender wildflowers to their home gardens, but more often than not, it doesn’t work. These plants prefer hard, untilled soil, and the soil found in flower beds is just too cushy for them. My neighbor with the perfect yard and garden managed to grow some pasque flowers in her wildflower garden, but she had to wait several years before the plants bloomed.
It’s because the pasque flower doesn’t grow well in cultivated soil that there is some worry that as more and more prairie is tilled for farming, the pasque flower will eventually disappear altogether from the grasslands. Since most of the areas where crocuses grow in the Yukon are no good for farming, and naturally hard soil is our specialty, there’s not much chance they’ll die out here.
The biggest danger for the Yukon pasque flower is little girls, who love to bring them home to their mothers by the ice-cream-bucketsful. At least that’s the way things went at our house.

*The green in the photo is the evergreen bearberry plant. 

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Reader Comments (5)

I just love that plant. It's so delicate-looking.

May 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKim in On

Hello Rebecca,
Very informative! Would you be able to tell us what flowers are blooming in Riverdale gardens now, in early July? And through July?

July 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnton baer

You can see all the wildflower posts that I've done so far here.

July 6, 2008 | Registered Commenterrebecca

I am a long time between visits, Rebecca, but I come by when I can. What a lovely flower. I enjoy your writing so much, thanks for being here when I get a moment.

Thanks, Becky!

May 27, 2009 | Registered Commenterrebecca

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