Every spring, the Prairie Crocus is the first plant to bloom on the prairie—even when it’s still snowing, like it has been in Calgary.
The Prairie Crocus has many names. I’ve been looking through my four plant identification books and, while they all refer to the Prairie Crocus, they don’t seem to agree on a botanical name. Some say Pulsatilla patens. Some say Anemone patens.
The Prairie Crocus is also called Cutleaf Anemone, Prairie Anemone, and Pasqueflower. But in Calgary, we call it the Prairie Crocus.
The flowers are usually pale blue or mauve but sometimes they are white or light yellow. When they open they are 1 ½ inches to 2 ½ inches in diameter.
Generally, flowers have Sepals and Petals. A sepal is the outer part of the flower. And the petals are within the sepals. Sepals are usually green and their job is to protect the tender petals inside.
In the case of the Prairie Crocus, there are no petals, only sepals, 5 to 7 sepals. These sepals, of course, are not green. They are the showy colours we see on the brown prairie hillsides.
Each stem holds one bloom. The stems are about 4 inches high and they are “hairy” or “woolly” as though Mother Nature decided to dress them warmly so they can tolerate the cold spring.
In fact, the Prairie Crocus knows a lot about staying warm. The sepals create a saucer shape, allowing the crocus to direct the sunlight on the inner stamens and pistils. Not only that, this intelligent plant follows the sun as it crosses the sky, collecting warmth all day long. The warmth helps the pollen and seeds develop, and provides a warm place for insects on a chilly spring day.
The Prairie Crocus is found in the dry prairie grasslands throughout the Prairie Provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Manitoba has adopted the flower as its floral emblem, and it appears on this stamp with Manitoba’s coat of arms.
Do you have Prairie Crocuses where you live? Is that what you call them? Or do you give them a different name?
Crocuses from Rolf Stengl
Stamp from Canstockphoto.com #6572872
~ Woolly Groundsel and Northern Hedysarum ~
On the Silver Springs hillside, above the still flooded Bow River, the land has never been ploughed.
A few days ago, the hillside boasted 31 varieties of blooming wildflowers. There are many other wildflowers there, but 31 of them were in bloom. That’s what you get with natural prairie.
The yellow ones are called Woolly Groundsel (senecio canus) and the pinks are Northern Hedysarum (hedysarum boreale). The pinks are also called Northern Sweetvetch, but I like Hedysarum better. A pretty word for a pretty flower. Maybe even a name for a character in a story . . .
What’s blooming where you live?
I think everyone can identify the clover wildflower, but there are many more wildflowers that most of us have never heard of. I don’t know why I find wildflowers so interesting but I do.
Last year, my husband Rolf canoed down the Bow River, landed on an island, and started taking pictures of the wildflowers. You might not consider them “flowers” – you might think they are “weeds”. It’s just a word and the reality depends on your perspective.
So there he is, tracking Water Smartweed, and he trips and drops his camera into the beaver pond. This is sad, because now he needs to buy a new camera. Not only that, he can’t photograph the Water Smartweed.
That was last year. He bought a new camera, a Panasonic Lumix LX5, and he paddled down the river again. And damn, he couldn’t find the Water Smartweed! But, on the other side of the island, he did manage to find Pale Smartweed. This is what it looks like.
Imagine writing a fantasy universe and having to come up with a whole set of names for the vegetation on that world. It could take days of work.
But why bother? Hardly anybody knows what the stuff on this planet is called. Like our neighbour Bruce, who has a few weeds in his alley. Rolf was out there talking to him and telling him what his “weeds” were called. And then Rolf found one he didn’t recognize so he took out his trusty camera and got a photo. After checking four reference books, he discovered it was Prickly Lettuce. This is what it looks like.
I had no idea this was Prickly Lettuce and I’ll bet you didn’t either. So now we both know what it looks like.
This naming of Wildflowers may seem to have no apparent purpose, but it does.
- It’s useful for creating a realistic sounding alternate reality.
- If you are ever on a Game Show, you at least know Something.
- If you have grandchildren, you might impress them.
- And, best of all, it’s a friendly interest in the universe.
How about you? Do you have a favourite weed or wildflower? Can you hardly wait until Rolf can find and photograph the Water Smartweed?
clover from bigstockphoto #229975936