The Pasqueflower (Prairie Crocus)
I'm going to have to admit, I am learning about the wild flowers throughout the Black Hills, and yes I'm getting a head start. Before we have signs of life breaking through the snow covered ground of the Black Hills and with any luck, I'll have studied the most common wildflowers of Southwestern South Dakota.
A good start is to begin this journey with the first bloomers, and follow them in order to their appearance throughout the season. I've seen this delicate beauty, but never understood how highly regarded it is. The Pasqueflower, or Prairie Crocus. This is the state flower of South Dakota. It was the first flower settlers would see in spring, with many songs associated with it.
The Pasqueflower can be white and yellow, purple and yellow, lavender, maroon, and white with a few other variations in between. Low to the ground like the crocus I recognize as a child, if not careful you can easily step on these first signs of life. I can only imagine how wonderful it was to see, bringing with it the warming of the sun and a promise of more pleasant weather ahead. The pasqueflower is delicate, with 5-8 petals and can be found on the limestone glades or meadows of the Black Hills. These areas are wet in the spring and dry during the summer due to the underlying rock, and are an important part of the geological uplift of the Black Hills.
According to Mother Earth Living, in an article by Betsy Strauch, the Pasque in pasqueflower refers to to Easter or Passover, and the juices that come out of the stem are naturally green, at one time used to color Easter eggs. This plant, this tiny early blooming flower has been used in arthritis, and the tea given to an expecting mother which in turn slows hear heartbeat and aids the birth. On the other hand the same tea can be given to a mother whose birth is induced.
This little Easter Plant of South Dakota is downright fascinating. Toxins within the plant that were used to heal different ailments. One such treatment is prepared and applied to an irritation on the skin, resulting in blistering and thus aids in the healing process. Nerdy but WOW!
Seriously, I could and probably have gone down a rabbit hole with this topic, and I'll spare you. If you're out in South Dakota near the limestone glades (Prairies) keep an eye out. Even the smallest of them are intricate and play big roles in the life of Indigenous Peoples. I'll be using the seasons to study, but my primary source is Plants of the Black Hills and Bear Lodge Mountains. One of my very favorite places in downtown Rapid City is Prairie Edge, where you can pick it up in person or order online. The book is broad in subject matter, which is why I chose wildflowers and ordered them by seasons.
Each moment of time throughout the Black Hills brings forth another surprise, a different color, a new smell or sound. This season I hope to open another whole new world. The Plants and Wildlife of South Dakota are simply amazing.
Next season beginning in May, we offer our Tour of the Southern Black Hills, with a special option to take the Wildflower Tour. It adds maybe an hour or two, but if you like to learn about plants like I do its worth every penny.
Daniel Milks is an explorer, guide, soda enuthiast and ocassional writer.