The Prairie Anemone

Yesterday’s post was about all the names people have given to the lovely purple flower that blooms earliest in the spring.  Do you call it a prairie anemone or a crocus?  And what else do you know about this little flower?
For example, do you know that an individual plant can live up to 50 years?  And that it can grow to be up to 30 centimetres across and produce about 40 blossoms?
Prairie anemones come up with a plan.  They want to be the first ones on the field so they have first dibs on pollinators and then get their seeds germinating right away.  It’s a daring scheme: there is always a chance that a May frost will put the kibosh on the whole idea.
There are some defense mechanisms the flower uses against the chilliness.  For instance, its cup shape and shiny petals are engineered to reflect light into the centre of the blossom.  The solar energy swirls around in the cup, warming the pistils and stamens (the reproductive bits) and any shivering little insects that want to crawl in for a warm up.  Aha!  All part of the plan to attract those pollinators.    Like a tiny satellite tracking dish, the little flower turns slowly throughout the day, following the sun.
Some say, when Alexander Mackenzie wintered in the Peace Country before his great expedition, it was the little purple anemone cloaked in down peeking through the snow that signalled him to start.  His journal is supposed to mention the flower… can anyone confirm this?
One more thing about the prairie anemone.  It grows best in native prairie, which means that its habitat is threatened these days.  If you can’t personally remember a time when this flower was everywhere, have a look at this picture.
Chris Grondahl photo: Prairie crocus
Prairie Crocus by Chris Grondahl.
Now, if you see the prairie anemone, think twice about picking a couple of blooms.  Appreciate this hardy, daring, historical plant just where it is.  If you love it so much that you just have to have it, perhaps you will look up the Living Prairie Museum, where you can purchase seeds.
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5 Responses to The Prairie Anemone

  1. It’s fascinating what grows in these places where we at first assume it’s just wasteland.

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