PASQUE FLOWER

PASQUEFLOWER

Pulsatilla vulgaris

(Formerly: Anemone pulsatilla)
Buttercup Family [Ranunculaceae]

month8apr month8april month8may

Pappus: pappusZpossible (globed, brown, wiry with appressed white hairs)
pappus8jun pappus8june pappus8jul pappus8july pappus8aug

status
statusZnative
 
flower
flower8bicolour
 
flower
flower8purple
 
inner
inner8yellow
 
morph
morph8hemizygo morph8actino
 
petals
petalsZ6
(3+3)
type
typeZtrumpet
 
stem
stem8round
 
toxicity
toxicityZhigh
 
rarity
rarityZscarce
 

26th May 2010, Therfield Common, Herts. Photo: © Phil And Ann Farrer
A somewhat rare and protected plant growing in few areas. Here in small patches on the left on a south-facing slope.


26th May 2010, Therfield Common, Herts. Photo: © Phil And Ann Farrer
Never standing upright, but always stooping to one side. A very hairy and short plant, up to a foot high, growing on short limy turf. The leaves are very finely divided and hairy.


26th May 2010, Therfield Common, Herts. Photo: © Phil And Ann Farrer
An inch beneath the flower are three finely-divided very hairy leaf-like bracts. The leaves, bottom left, are 2-pinnate.


26th May 2010, Therfield Common, Herts. Photo: © Phil And Ann Farrer
The underside of the 'petals' (actually petaloid sepals) is also covered in fine felty white hairs, as is the stem.


26th May 2010, Therfield Common, Herts. Photo: © Phil And Ann Farrer
Six deep violet to purple petaloid sepals, numerous stamens within. The flower never fully opens, at best the 'petals' only subtending an angle of about 100°.


26th May 2010, Therfield Common, Herts. Photo: © Phil And Ann Farrer
The 'petals' are arranged in two groups of three, an inner and an outer group. Although seemingly with actinomorphic symmetry, they are actually hemi-zygomorphic, with slight bi-lateral symmetry on account of their drooping nature, never facing straight upwards.


26th May 2010, Therfield Common, Herts. Photo: © Phil And Ann Farrer
The 'petals' lack hair on the inner surfaces. The numerous stamens are a deep golden yellow with golden anthers, the outer ones being sterile but nectariferous, producing nectar for bees. The central style becomes very elongated and feathery at the tip, not un-like those of Common Mallow.


IN A GARDEN, BUT FRUITING HEAD IS SIMILAR TO WILD SPECIMENS

30th May 2014, a garden, Downham, Lancashire. Photo: © RWD
The fruiting heads are a little like feather dusters.


30th May 2014, a garden, Downham, Lancashire. Photo: © RWD
Hundreds of brown wiry filaments emerge from a central green sphere. Presumably when ripe the filaments disengage from the central globe carrying one seed each.


30th May 2014, a garden, Downham, Lancashire. Photo: © RWD
The brown filaments are covered in fine white hairs and appressed to them pointing away from the centre. Similar white hairs on the stem are appressed downwards. It is possible that the small elongated fawn-coloured objects on the withered sepals are stray seeds.


30th May 2014, a garden, Downham, Lancashire. Photo: © RWD
The leaves are fern-like and reminiscent of those on Monk's-hood.


30th May 2014, a garden, Downham, Lancashire. Photo: © RWD
Showing how the leaves emerge from a circular annulus encircling the main stem.


A GARDEN VARIETY

26th March 2012, a garden, Bamford, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
A garden spray.


26th March 2012, a garden, Bamford, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Flowers and long thin narrow forked bracts.


26th March 2012, a garden, Bamford, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Stems and bracts have a dense covering of long white hairs forming an ethereal halo all around the plant.


26th March 2012, a garden, Bamford, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Flowers not opened yet showing the long narrow forked bracts which are densely feathery-hairy.


26th March 2012, a garden, Bamford, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Leaves deeply cut not dissimilar to those of Monk's-hood, but much smaller.


26th March 2012, a garden, Bamford, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Flowers densely white-hairy on the back at the edges of the petals.


26th March 2012, a garden, Bamford, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD


26th March 2012, a garden, Bamford, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Numerous orange-yellow paddle-shaped anthers and a twisted central stack of stamens which are light-green and become purple near the ends.


Some similarities to: Love-in-a-Mist, which also has finely-divided leaves and six 'petals' (which are blue and open fully).

Not to be semantically confused with : Passionflower (Passiflora caerulea) [a plant with similar name belonging to the Passionflower Family (Passifloraceae)]

The fruiting-head looks similar to that of : Virgin's-Bower (Clematis flammula) and Traveller's-Joy (Clematis vitalba), but the hairy filaments of the feathery plumes on the fruiting-head of Pasque Flower do not curl over as much, nor are they as dense.

Uniquely identifiable characteristics

Distinguishing Feature :

The flower exhibits hemi-zygomorphic symmetry, seeming to be actinomorphic, but actually having slightly bilateral symmetry on account of its 3 + 3 arrangement of petaloid sepals and its drooping habit. It is a rather rare plant, not growing north of Carnforth nor west of Bristol and prefers short turf in limestone areas, particularly Hertfordshire. In some ways, it is not un-like Love-in-a-Mist, another member of the same Buttercup Family. There is a large population, estimated at over 20,000 specimens, in Barnsley Warren - a publicly accessible location in the Cotswolds.

Pasqueflower is the County Flower of Cambridgeshire and Herefordshire.

Somewhat surprisingly it is a member of the Buttercup Family, Ranuculaceae, but is the only member of its Genus, Pulsatilla in the UK (in the wider World there are about 33 species). Pulsatilla is sometimes regarded as a sub-genus of the Anemone Genus.

It is highly poisonous, and contains the lactone glucoside Ranunculin which is almost ubiquitous in members of the Buttercup Family and which is converted to the poisonous Protoanemonin by enzymes. Ingestion of Pasque Flower can result in diarrhoea, vomiting, hypotension, convulsions and coma possibly leading to death. It has in the past been used as a medicine by native Americans to induce abortion or aid childbirth, but it should not be used as such! Extracts have been used to treat coughs and as a sedative. It is also said to have a variety of triterpene saponin cardiogenic toxins and oxytoxins which slow the heart rate of mammals, but your author has been un-successful in tracking down any particular ones. Red herrings come to mind. When the plant is dried, the poisonous protoanemonin dimerizes into the still poisonous but relatively non-toxic Anemonin.

Protoanemonin can cause strong allergic reactions when exposed to the skin, causing itching, rashes and blistering. It is strongly anti-bacterial and causes paralysis of the central nervous system.

The fruit is covered in very long silky strands not un-like those seen on Water Avens but without the barbs and may persist well into summer.


  Pulsatilla vulgaris  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Ranunculaceae  

Distribution
 family8Buttercup family8Ranunculaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Pulsatilla
Pulsatilla
(Pasqueflower)

PASQUE FLOWER

PASQUEFLOWER

Pulsatilla vulgaris

(Formerly: Anemone pulsatilla)
Buttercup Family [Ranunculaceae]

WildFlowerFinder Homepage