All hail the Prairie Crocus!
The first flowers to emerge after the winter freeze, is the delicate Prairie Crocus with its fuzzy mauve petals and bright yellow centre, it peeks little buds out of the dry brown grass landscape. The early bloomer can be found growing on sandy slopes in Native soil in the Western sides of Canada. It is actually the provincial flower of Manitoba.
However this flower isn’t actually a crocus, (which is in the Lily family) but an anemone, in the buttercup family. Just like all flowers in the buttercup family, they open with the sun and close at night. The miss naming of the plant was done by the settlers because it reminded them of the crocus back home. Other names are; Pasque flower, prairie anemone, prairie smoke, wind flower. The name windflower comes from the greek word for wind. The plant is also called Pasque flower because it sometimes blooms as early as Easter.
The Prairie Anemone grows in dry, undisturbed soil and has a long taproot that dives deep. The plant has a symbiotic relationship with fungi under the soil, which feeds the flower nutrients to bloom. The flowers can stay dormant for multiple years and will often grow in abundance 2 years after a grass fire. Fire removes the dead plant litter, returns minerals to the soil surface, and increases sunshine to assist in plant growth.
Blackfoot Legend tells it that this adorable plant got its furry coat to protect it from chilly spring mornings. The greyish seeds heads that appear in the early summer, refer to the Blackfoot word “Napi” which means “Old Man” and is the feature to the creation story.
The prairie crocus decorates the prairies in celebration of the arrival of spring!
So go outside and searching for the delicate fuzzy flower, but please do not pick it or dig it up. The flowers are essential to the health of prairie soil and the plants will not transplant if you uproot it. Happy Hunting!