Photos by Carolyn Brown
The crocuses are up! Well, actually, the delicate, softly purple wildflower poking through the snow and promising spring that we call the crocus is in bloom. That’s right, the Prairie Crocus is more properly called a Prairie Anemone.
You see, a true crocus is a member of the iris family and it is native to Europe. When settlers saw the Prairie Anemone struggling through the snow, they called it after the similar, early blossoming crocus they knew from home. They utterly disregarded the fact that crocuses grow from bulbs while anemones grow from seeds, and the fact that the European plant isn’t poisonous while this Canadian one certainly is. Just in case you’re tempted, don’t eat any part of it.
However, this particular little anemone was a friendly, almost familiar face, and it heralded a welcome end to the miserable prairie winter. The favourite little harbinger inspired many names, but for some reason the “crocus” moniker stuck.
Some of the alternatives are just as worthy:
French settlers said pasque (Easter) flower. It blooms at Easter, and dye obtained from the purple petals (which are actually sepals, but that’s another post) was used to colour Easter eggs.
Native Americans said Ears of the Earth because these earliest buds were like furry ears, sent out to listen for rustlings of summer.
Gosling flower is an obvious nickname due to the downiness of the buds and their arrival in early spring.
April Fool may be a reference to the likelihood that the flower will freeze, for all its fuzziness, because of its early arrival.
Wind flower comes from the anemone classification, which comes from the Greek word for wind. It was believed that anemones blossomed only when the spring wind blew. Meadow anemone and prairie anemone are related terms.
Finally, crocus anemone and prairie crocus are neat compromises for those who would argue that a rose by any other name might not smell as sweet.
Please read tomorrow’s post (with more pictures!) to find out a few more interesting things about the prairie crocus anemone pasque ear gosling flower. AKA the blue tulip.
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