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Spring Issue

Biology of the Prairie Crocus

More Crocus Stuff





Prairie Crocus

Our Prairie Crocus! By Johnny Caryopsis

The crocuses are blooming! The crocuses are blooming! . . . Oh, yeah? Well, it is a big deal, to me and a lot of other nature nuts! It's the real beginning of spring! The start of the growing season, when bees start buzzing, buds start popping and green blades push up through the brown grass. After a long winter, having to make do with nature shows on PBS and Discovery Channel, we get to start enjoying the real thing again! And the prairie crocus, that's Anemone patens (also know as Pulsatilla patens) to you botanists out there, provides a beautiful and fascinating start to the outdoor season.

[Click thumbnail images for larger pictures.]

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The prairie crocus serves as Manitoba's floral emblem. We weren't the only ones to think so highly of the crocus; it's also the floral emblem of South Dakota. As our emblem, the crocus' name and likeness are common place on government publications and even in the private sector. There was a prominent investment fund in Manitoba that drew its name from this famous plant. But the fortunes of the Crocus Fund have dwindled, much like the plant itself. The crocus is no longer a common-place plant in much of this province.


- Take a look at the City of Winnipeg's coat of arms, . . .
yep, that's a crocus in the middle! -

Over the years, I've met lots of people with stories to tell about crocuses. Most have been seniors with tales from their youth, of fields of crocuses and bunches gathered each spring. And, sadly, I've met many young people who don't even know what a crocus is. Worse yet, I've seen nurseries and garden centres selling european crocuses under the guise of being our provincial emblem; they're not even related plants! (More on this later!)


The prairie crocus has suffered the same fate as most of our native prairie plants. Its main habitat, the prairies of southern Manitoba, are now largely gone, replaced by farms, cities and roads. In pockets of southwestern Manitoba, where the soils were too poor for agriculture, you can still find fields of crocuses, for now, but you have to look for them. There was a time when crocuses were everywhere in the spring, if you believe the tales. I must admit, I do harbour some resentment for those thoughtless people that have robbed my children of the chance to see crocuses everywhere in the spring. By the way, the status of official emblem carries with it no protection for the crocus. The only plants that have official protection in Manitoba are those listed under the Endangered Species Act. Ironically then, in order to be protected, the crocus, or any other plant, must be near extinction. (Clearly a policy of closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. Oops, I was told not to get all huffy about politics!)

But enough of gloom and tears over spilt milk. It's spring time and the crocuses are blooming! And anyway, I don't get mad, I get busy! Each year, from many secret sites I get picking, not crocus flowers, ...their seeds! And together with Winnipeg's Living Prairie Museum, we sell those seeds. For you see, we are crocus pushers! Our aim is to hook everyone on crocuses, so they crave the sight of those gentle mauve blossoms each spring. So they'll grow their own and plant them in their yards. So their neighbours will see them and want them, too. Soon, they'll be everywhere again and there's nothing you can do to stop us . . . .

Sorry, but we had to stop Johnny there. He was getting a little carried away. Still, we think he has a good idea. Growing crocuses is something anyone can do and you can get crocus seeds from the Living Prairie Museum. Fortunately, we got Johnny to write some stuff about crocuses earlier on this winter, crocus season gets him a little wound up. So please, continue on and read a little more about our floral emblem. Actually, we have quite a bit about crocuses here, Johnny' quite prolific, even though we understand he did lift a bunch of this stuff from some brochures he got from Living Prairie Museum. -- The Editors --

Please carry on for more: Biology of the Prairie Crocus

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