Western Pasqueflower

Western pasqueflowers (Anemone occidentalis) bloom very early in the spring, right after the snow leaves the ground. The blooms occur before the leaves are completely exposed and while the plant is only 2 to 8 inches in height. It is also a high elevation plant, found from approximately 5,000 to 10,000 feet. Thus only the earliest spring hikers usually see this native perennial in blossom.

Later in the season, once the sepals fall, western pasqueflowers rapidly grow to approximately two feet in height and the leaves open.The fruits are hairy achenes (single dry seeds) with very long, drooping, wavy, feathery styles that form a showy head on a cylindrical receptacle resembling an upturned mop. These showy heads are what most people see and associate with pasqueflowers.

One to several stems arise from a caudex (rootstock) with thick, vertical root stems. The entire plant, including the flower, is very hairy.  Western pasqueflower leaves are divided two or three times into many lacy, linear segments.  The basal leaves are long-stalked while there is a whorl of three leaves without stalks about midway up the stem.

Western pasqueflowers have no petals, rather there are 5 to 8 cream to yellow green sepals that resemble petals. There is a single flower atop each stem. The flowers have about 100 stamens and many pistils. They are members of the Buttercup Family.

Western pasqueflowers are found on rocky slopes and meadows in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia and Alberta.

A occidentalis is placed in the Pulsatilla genus by some taxonomists. Other common names include western pasque flower (two words) and western anemone. The light feathery seedheads, which are whitish when young, give western pasqueflower the additional colloquial names moptop and tow-headed baby. Pasqueflower refers to Easter or Passover when these plants are often in bloom.

Although poisonous when fresh, Native Americans made a tea from the dry plant which was used to treat tuberculosis as well as stomach and bowel problems.

Anemone, the genus name, is from the Greek “anemos” meaning “wind”. This refers to the distribution of seeds by the wind. Some members of this genus are colloquially called windflowers. The species name, occidentalis, means western in Latin.

These specimens were all photographed in Crater Lake National Park (Oregon) along the East Rim Drive – the seed heads in September and the flowers in June.


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