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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Arb notes: pasque flowers arrive

<lear sign that spring has sprung is the annual arrival of the pasque flower on the prairie. The pasque flower (Anemone patens), or prairie crocus, is the first native prairie flower to bloom each spring.  They are an important pollination resource for female bees, and blooming early ensures more attention from pollinators looking to build up their nests.  The lavender colored flowers typically bloom in early to mid April; the name pasque flower comes from the Hebrew word for Passover (Pesach) and the French word for Easter (Pâques), referring to their flowering period.

Pasque flowers do not have true petals; their blossom is composed of five to seven petal-like sepals.  The silky leaves on the stem are arranged in a whorl underneath the sepals.  Like the rest of the buttercup family, they have a clump of narrow hairy leaves at the base of the stem.  They are protogynous, meaning that the seed-bearing, or “female” parts develop first, followed by the development of the male anthers, which shed pollen.  During the male phase, they attract pollinators by producing nectar near the base of the stamens, forcing the visiting insects to come into contact with the pollen-covered anthers.  This helps ensure cross-pollination.

Another incredible adaptation of the pasque flower is that they are able to track the sun!  When the flowers are open, they track the sun throughout the day.  Heliotropism is most commonly found in plants that flower while pollinators are scarcer.  The warmth from the sun that is trapped by the sun-facing flowers creates a welcome and inviting place for pollinators to warm up.

While the pasque flower is well suited for the environment of the prairie, it is not able to adapt to habitat loss related changes.  Individual plants can live up to 50 years or more, and take many years of growth before flowering.  They do not grow on disturbed soil, and thus have become more difficult to find as the native prairie continues to shrink.  They can be found around this time of year on the hilltops of McKnight Prairie and the prairie restorations near the Marc von Trapp Memorial in the Lower Arb.

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