Monday, 14 December 2015

Pasque Flowers

My most recent blog attracted nearly a hundred hits; not in the Wayne Rooney league of course but then I rarely mention football (I must be one of Britain's few 77 year-olds who have never been to a football match) and I suspect he rarely mentions lichens or blowflies). 

Today is grey, damp and chilly but I could - and should - have stretched my legs with a walk. Instead I've contented myself with planting some Pasque Flowers, Pulsatilla vulgaris. They won't flower of course until next May, although in theory they should flower around Easter or, strictly speaking, around the Feast of the Passover (Hebrew: pesach, the passover). 

It is a native of Northamptonshire, occurring on limestone in the east of the county where it was once known from six sites. It is now found at only one of these sites, a disused limestone quarry at Barnack but there it is afforded strict protection and seems secure. Oddly, although John Clare must surely have been familiar with it, he seems not to have afforded it a mention.
Pasque flower with slightly atypical 'petals' in my
garden. May, 2014

Our native species has flowers of a glorious shade of purple but, for variety, I have planted a white and a reddish form. In theory it is an easy plant to recognise, with silky-hairy leaves and fruiting heads consisting of achenes with long feathery styles. I say in theory, for when I have searched for them in the Tyrol I frequently find that I am looking at Ranunculus species or even a Geum.

In my youth it was included in with the Ranunculus genus but botanists feel now that is sufficiently distinct to merit its own genus, along with thirty or so other species found not only as far east as China and Korea but also in North America. I must keep an eye open for these other Pasque Flowers.

It is one of the 'awkward squad' in that what appear to be petals are really sepals - one of several features it shares with the closely related Clematis genus.

As I have mentioned, in our county it grows on lime, and certainly it likes a taste of lime in the soil. It my garden it will have to put up with a neutral loam, to which I have added gritty sand for drainage. It should survive.

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