Pasque flower

Image courtesy of Jannis _V    CC BY-SA 3.0 license.


 This species belongs to the buttercup family Ranunculaceae, in the order Ranunculales. They have been given the species name of Pulsatilla which derives from the Latin pulsc indicating  ' I beat' referring to the way the seeds are beaten by the wind. It was formerly known by the Latin name of Anemone pulsatilla.  It is known by the common name of Pasque or Easter flower from the timing of the blooms appearance. 

Pasque flower in bloom

Image courtesy of Bernard DUPONT {France}    CC BY-SA 3.0 license.Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) (17022184800).jpg


The rootstock of this pretty plant is somewhat woody. They produce a rosette of finely divided, stalked leaves, which are covered by silky hairs especially when in the young state. The stalks of the leaves tend to be purplish. It attains the height of between 15 - 30 cm  {6-12 inches}.  The flower stalks rise to between five and eight inches tall and a single flower occurs at the top of each stalk. Each flower is 5.5-5.8 cm {one to two inches.} wide. Beneath the petals are three stalkless deeply cut leaflets or bracts. The sepals which are petal-like  are a dull violet purple colour very silky on the underside. The yellow stamens are very prominent. 

The flowers are upright at first then become nodding. These are succeeded by hairy brown achenes  {seed vessels}  they are carried in the wind on white plumes of long feathery tails, like those of the wild clematis.

The majority of the finely divided foliage only occur after the flowers have faded.

The plants are found on open meadows or in short turf especially on chalky soil which is well drained. 

The feathery seed head.

 Image courtesy of Rror   CC BY-SA 3.0 license.


Pasque flower UK

In the UK it is now classed as being vulnerable and much, much rarer than it once was. The largest colony in any county is in Hertfordshire where over 10,000 plants still remain.

Pasque flower growing in the USA.  Note the much divided foliage.

Public domain courtesy of the USFWS.

Past medicinal and other uses.

This species was considered to be a nervine, antispasmodic, and diaphoretic. Mrs Grieve in her Modern Herbal {1937}, states that a tincture of Pulsattila is beneficial in disorders of the mucous membrane of the respiratory and digestive passages and that doses of two or three drops in a spoonful of water will allay the spasmodic  cough of asthma,whooping cough and bronchitis.

It must however, be remembered that this species is a member of the buttercup family  and like all members of that family they are poisonous. This plant should never be taken internally unless prepared by a qualified herbalist and administered under supervision. It is not recommended in any home made preparations. It should never be used in its fresh state when the presence of toxins is high. The dried herb is used in medicine when much of the toxins are much weakened. 

Side effects of the toxins-- the sap  {like all buttercups} contains a substance known as protoanemonin which can cause skin blisters and blemishes and if swallowed can cause severe kidney and urinary tract damage.


Many species are grown as a spring garden plant, where in suitable conditions they make an impressive early display. However, they do not like being disturbed or moved so make sure they are planted in their permanent place after reading the planting instructions on the label. Pulsatilla vulgaris 'alba' is popular white flowered variety but heir are many others to choose from .

White flowered variety. 

Courtesy of Opiola Jerzey  CC BY-SA 3.0 license.Pulsatilla alpina a2.jpg

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