Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae)
Description: This native perennial plant is about ½' tall when it blooms, but later becomes up to 1½' tall. It consists of a few basal leaves and a single flowering stalk with a whorl of 3 leaves. The flowering stalk is densely covered with long white hairs that are soft and silky. The basal leaves are palmately divided in compound linear lobes. Each of these linear lobes often have a few coarse teeth along their margins. The upper surface of each basal leaf is relatively hairless, but the lower surface often has long white hairs that are soft and silky. Each basal leaf develops from a long petiole that is hairy like the flowering stalk and lower surface of the leaf blade. The whorled leaves are similar to the basal leaves, except that they are sessile and smaller in size. Above the whorled leaves, is a stout hairy peduncle that bears a single large flower at its apex. This peduncle continues to elongated after the flower sheds its petals. Each flower is up to 3" across when fully open, consisting of 5-8 petal-like sepals, an elongated cluster of white to purple styles, and a ring of numerous yellow stamens. There are no petals. The sepals are pale purple to deep purple and softly hairy on their exterior surface. The blooming period occurs during early to mid-spring and lasts about 2 weeks. The flowers are short-lived and usually bloom on spring days that are sunny and warm. After shedding their sepals, the styles of the flowers become plumose and elongated (individually up to 1½" long); they have a silky appearance. At the base of each mature style, there is a flattened achene. Because of their plumose styles, these achenes can be blown about by the wind. The root system consists of a woody taproot; this becomes swollen into a caudex on older plants, from which several flowering stalks may develop. Pasque Flower spreads into new areas by reseeding itself.
Cultivation: 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. Barren areas with scant ground vegetation are preferred as this reduces competition from other plants.
Range & Habitat: Pasque Flower is an uncommon plant that occurs only in extreme northern Illinois (see Distribution Map). It has been exterminated from many areas because of modern development. This species is native to both North America and Eurasia. Habitats include hill prairies, gravel prairies, and barrens with scant woody vegetation. This species is grown in flower gardens because of its showy flowers; such cultivated plants may consist of the typical variety from Eurasia, or Anemone patens patens. The variety from North America is referred to as Anemone patens multifida. They are difficult to distinguish, but the Eurasia variety has flowers in a greater range of colors.
Faunal Associations: According to Müeller (1873/1883) of Germany, bees are attracted to the flowers, which offer abundant pollen and minute amounts of nectar. In North America, Halictid bees have been observed collecting the pollen; this includes the species Agapostemon texanus texanus and Halictus rubicunda. The foliage contains a blistering agent and is poisonous, which deters consumption by mammalian herbivores.
Photographic Location: A flower garden in Urbana, Illinois. The flower in the upper photograph is only partially open.
Comments: This is one of the earliest flowers to bloom in a prairie. A scientific synonym for this species is Pulsatilla patens. The common name refers to the religious holiday of Easter, when the flowers are often in bloom. The Pasque Flower has larger flowers than other Anemone spp. (Anemones), and it is unusual in having elongated plumose styles. It shares this characteristic with many Clematis spp., which are twining vines in the Buttercup family.