Pulsatilla ludoviciana
- The Harbinger Of Spring
(syn. Pulsatilla patens, Anemone patens)
by Kristl Walek

Pulsatilla ludoviciana has a wide distribution throughout the northern latitudes. In Canada it is native from Ontario to BC and north to Nunavut, being most prevalent in the prairies. It is hardy to at least –45°C.
In the wild it grows in tall and mixed-grass prairies to rocky mountain slopes and in dry woodlands. It prefers sunny, hot, dry areas. It is usually the first wildflower to emerge after winter, often blooming through the melting snow. This can be as early as March. The opening of its delicate mauve petals is a sure sign of spring.

The term "Crocus" in its common name is a misnomer applied by early settlers to a plant that reminded them of the bulbous European crocus they knew from home. There are similarities: the Prairie Crocus’s goblet-shaped blossoms do resemble that of the crocus, and both plants poke through late snow to herald a new season. Prairie Crocus emerges from the ground as a hairy flower bud surrounded by furry leaves. When the purple sepals open they reveal bright yellow stamens inside. Flowering is normally at or near ground level. The flowers open in sunshine and close in the evening or in cloudy weather. Over time, the flower stem lengthens and the hairy leaves fully expand. After pollination, the stem can be 30cm tall. Flowering lasts about two weeks. The long, feathery seeds, characteristic of the genus, ripen by summer. Prairie Crocus is a long-lived perennial with a thick woody taproot. Individual plants can live for 50 years or more and a large specimen can be 30cm across and boast more than 40 blossoms.

The Prairie Crocus was officially adopted as the floral emblem of the province of Manitoba by Royal Assent on March 16, 1906. Accordingly, "The flower known botanically as the Anemone patens, and popularly called the crocus, shall be adopted as and deemed to be the floral emblem of the province." The flower was chosen by Manitoba school children. The state of Dakota also picked this species as its floral emblem.

Pulsatilla ludoviciana is relatively easy from seed. Spear the pointed seed into the soil, moisten it and watch it spiral itself deeper into the soil (an interesting adaptation to survival in the dry habitats where it grows). Seedlings normally emerge in 2-4 weeks. Young plants spend their first few years forming an extensive root system (an important adaptation for this drought resistant plant). Flowering is normally in the third season, a small period of time to wait, as Prairie Crocus will grace your landscape for most of your lifetime after that.