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What is a Pasque Flower?

By KD Morgan
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A pasque flower, or pasqueflower, is a deciduous flower common to many regions of the world, such as the great plains of North America, southwestern Europe and Eurasia. This perennial is from the ranunculaceae family with bright lilac, bell shaped petals and yellow anthers and a white hairy down. They are hardy and carry few threats by disease or insects.

Its popularity reaches far around the world. It grows wild by reseeding itself and enjoys rocky or dense soil alike. In the United States, the pasque flower is the state flower of South Dakota. It is also honored as the flower of the Canadian province of Manitoba.

Pasque is derived from the French word for Easter, as it is one of the earliest spring flowers to bloom. However, the flower actually gets its name from southern England. The Lokota Sioux called it “twinflower” because it always has two blossoms. Other Native Americans referred to it as “prairie smoke” because upon maturity, the white soft down would drift in the wind, giving the appearance of smoke blowing across the prairie. Other common names for this well known plant are prairie crocus, Easter Flower and meadow anemone.

Several centuries earlier, Pliny, the ancient Greek physician, claimed that the flower was named after anemos (the wind), as the blossoms are known to open when the wind blows. The Greeks also referred to it as “windflower” as it alludes to being forsaken. The nymph Anemone was turned into a windflower by the goddess Flora after gaining the attentions of her husband, Zephyr. Once she became a windflower, Zephyr abandoned Anemone and she is said to remain blowing in the wind to this day. In other mythology, the flower was said to have sprung from the blood of Adonis, as Aphrodite wept over his slain body.

The pasque flower is extremely toxic in its fresh form. If exposed to the skin, it can cause intense blistering. When ingested, it can cause irritations to the gastrointestinal tract, leading to urinary problems, colic and diarrhea. Even in low doses, it has been known to cause spontaneous abortions, coma, convulsions, vomiting and asphyxiation. The pasque flower can be lethal with as few as 30 fresh plants ingested.

In its dried form, it has been used for medicinal purposes throughout the ages, with records as far back as ancient Greece. Native Americans revered the pasque flower as one of four sacred plants. Internally, it was given to help alleviate digestive and respiratory disorders, induce labor and abortions. Externally, it was used to soothe rheumatism and cauterize bleeding.

The pasque flower is one of the most commonly used flowers in homeopathic medicine. It is an instrumental remedy for a wide range of ailments such as cataracts, male and female reproduction problems, urinary tract and gastrointestinal issues and distress. It is used as an antibacterial, lowers arterial tension, reduces headaches, coughs and sleeplessness, and serves as a sedative for nervous disorders. Due to the pasque flower’s potential for toxicity, it is strongly emphasized that this plant only be used with professional supervision.

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