The American pasqueflower (P. patens), is a bluish, open bell-shaped wildflower of the prairie regions of North America. As a herald of spring and a symbol of old age (from the silvery heads of feathery seeds), the plant has been made the subject of Plains Indian song and legend. It is the floral emblem of South Dakota. Patches of the flowers on their short, furry stems give an appearance of haze, for this reason the plant in the Great Plains region is called prairie smoke. Other names for the American variety are gosling flower, sandflower, windflower, wild crocus, and anemone. It contains a poison and is an irritant when fresh. The crushed leaves were applied by Native Americans as a counterirritant in cases of rheumatism and neuralgia. The plants can raise blisters on sensitive mucous membranes. Pasqueflowers are perennial herbs, covered with dense hairs. Leaves are mainly basal, divided 1 to 3 times into long, slender leaflets, 4-10 cm wide, with long stalks. Stipules are absent. There is a whorl of stem leaves near mid-stem. The flowers are solitary on stems and have 5-7 showy petal-like sepals which are blue, purple or white. The stamens are bright yellow and numerous. The fruits of pasque flowers are silky achenes, about 3 mm long, with about 3 cm long, feathery styles in fluffy heads.
Guide to Identify Presented Species of Genus Pulsatilla
P. patens Pasqueflower Tufted, silky-hairy plant, 10-40 cm tall. Well-drained, open mountain slopes.
Flowers solitary, hairy outside, 5-7 cm broad. Sepals 5-7, blue-purple.
Basal leaves long-stalked, finely cut in 3s. Stem leaves smaller, stalkless.