A Purple Passion

My favorite section of South Dakota, our next alphabetical state, is the Black Hills. They get their name from the dark green of the old timber Ponderosa Pine which from a distance does appear black on the horizon. Up close, these towering pines are magnificent as they reach skyward in this land of hills, Native Americans, gold, and the Pasque Flower – the state wildflower of South Dakota. The Sioux considered the Black Hills as sacred land and until gold was discovered in the 1870’s, the American government honored their treaty with the Indian nations, but once the word was broadcast that gold was “everywhere” in the hills, the few Indian agents and scattered US Cavalry could not hold back the flood of prospectors. The Sioux were removed from the Hills and now reside in the Pine River Indian Reservation in the Southwest part of the state. The Black Hills still have the Ponderosa Pine, but now sport the “Wild West” town of Deadwood. The gold is still there but has to be taken from deep mines by huge corporations. The Pasque Flower still blooms in the hills and throughout South Dakota in late April and early May and shares its promise of a warmer Spring and Summer with all who stop and admire it.

South Dakota’s state wildflower (Pulsatilla hirsutissima) is known commonly as the Pasque Flower, the Passion Flower, or the May Flower.

Sometimes lavender, but always a purple hue, the Pasque Flower received its name from its blooming time around Easter. Pioneers made a purple dye from its petals which was used to color Easter eggs but be careful, the plant is toxic and repeated use made the early settlers very sick. The bloom consists of three petals and three sepals both a deep purple color and up to 200 golden stamens in the center. The blossom is three inches across and seldom more than a foot above the ground. The leaves are finely divided and the entire plant is covered with a silver, silky fuzz. Self-propagation is by seed and the plant or seed is sometimes found in nurseries. The perennial plant has a large, woody taproot making it difficult to collect from the wild or to transplant in a cultivated garden.

Hirsutissima in Latin translates as “very hairy” and the Pasque Flower lives up to its name.
Emerging Pasque – Purple Passion with a silver lining.
The Black Hills with its Ponderosa Pine hiding gold and Pasque Flowers.
Wild Bergamot or Oswego Tea is a common South Dakota wildflower.
The Colorado Blue Columbine grows throughout the Dakotas.
The Tall Bellflower was found at my home woods in Kentucky as well as the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Tickseed sunflowers grow everywhere in the Dakotas – wherever there is a sunny patch of ground.

Above is our last look at the Pasque Flower before we head to our next alphabetical state, Tennessee, which has two state wildflowers and one of them shares the “Passion” name but is totally different from the Pasque Flower.

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