Spring seems to really have arrived this week – things are greening up nicely and the trees are getting their baby leaves. And one of my favorite early perennials, the prairie crocus, has made an appearance! The prairie crocus has many names: pasque flower, prairie anemone, prairie smoke, wind flower, and I’m sure I’ve missed others. It is always the second flower to appear in my garden (the small crocuses I included in a post a couple of weeks ago are always the first). I made it a point to plant my prairie crocuses in my front yard, close to the public sidewalk so that I would see them every time I came home, and also so that passerbys could enjoy a bit of early spring color.
Prairie crocuses are actually a native plant in my area because I live in (you guess it), the prairies. But they are also native to the rest of Alberta, including the woodland areas, mostly in sandy soil (I grew up in the woodlands, near the Sandhills, so these flowers have always been familiar to me).
It seems silly that this plant would be called a crocus because it actually isn’t in the crocus family at all. It is an anemone. Of course, this won’t stop me from calling it a prairie crocus. But it does make you wonder how it got the name – I read that settlers referred to it as a crocus as it reminded them of the early crocuses back in Europe.
Apparently the plant is also quite poisonous if consumed, although I have read that parts of it were once used to make concoctions that would remedy muscle pains. In addition to this, parts of the plant (I’m unsure which parts) were also used to stop nosebleeds and draw out infection in cuts and boils.
I think my favorite thing about the prairie crocus is that it is a cute little plant with ferny leaves and flowers covered in these tiny silver hairs. The leaves don’t show much of their faces until the flowers are spent, but the flowers turn into starburst-like seedheads, which I really love. The plant itself is a stumpy guy and stays fairly compact – mine haven’t spread at all and don’t get much taller than 6-8 inches. Although, I have noticed a few new plants popping up at work in the garden, presumably from seed that was blown by the wind, but those beds are barely mulched, so I can see how they would spread in that situation.
These plants are also very drought tolerant, making them perfect for sunny, hot beds. The photo above is from my garden, but the photo below is from the dry bed at work where these flowers have spread quite a bit. I couldn’t help snap a photo of them early one morning this week.
I purchased my plants from a local garden centre, but I’ve read that they are easy to start from seed. Don’t take these plants from the wild though as they will not grow back – but feel free to take some seed if you do see those in the wild.
Seeing these flowers appear has made me so excited for the rest of my perennials to start blooming – next will be the double flowering plum and my tulips. Unfortunately I heard a rumor that it is supposed to snow some time over this weekend but I’m hoping that is a lie. Regardless, I am planning on throwing in my lettuce, spinach, radish and pea seeds. Sometimes you just need to ignore the snow and do what you’re gonna do.