© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Seeing spring wildflowers in North Dakota

Pasque Flower
Bernard DuPont
Pasque Flower

When was the last time you took a stroll through the North Dakota prairie to see the spring wildflowers?

If the pasque flowers are not in bloom near you, they will be soon. And there are other wildflowers as well, including Draba and prairie smokeBeauty often comes in small packages, and the spring wildflowers will help brighten your day.

Pasque Flowers

Pasque flowers (pictured above), also known as wild crocus, are among the earliest wildflowers to bloom on the prairie -- and for many nature watchers, the blooming of the pasque flower is the official harbinger of spring.

They may be observed across the state on upland prairie. Standing from 2-4" tall or more, the stems and leaves have a dense covering of white hairs that help insulate the plant from the cold. And at the top of the stem is a pale blue flower, about 1.5" in diameter, with a cluster of yellow anthers inside.

Our fondness for the pasque flower is illustrated by its being designated the state flower of South Dakota and the provincial flower of Manitoba.

Whitlow Grass

Many of the spring wildflowers on the prairie are small and rather inconspicuous, but no less interesting. A good example is whitlow grass (Draba nemorosa), a member of the mustard family that produces small yellow flowers.

Aldo Leopold, the father of wildlife management and author of the popular book A Sand County Almanac, had a soft spot for this diminutive spring wildflower. Here is a bit of what Leopold wrote about Draba:

“He who hopes for spring with upturned eye never sees so small a thing as Draba Draba plucks no heartstrings ... No poets sing of it ... Altogether it is of no importance – just a small creature that does a small job quickly and well.”

Prairie Smoke

Prairie smoke (Geum triflorum), also known as old man’s whiskers, should be in bloom now or soon. It is a member of the rose family that produces three small drooping reddish pink to purplish flowers at the top of the stem which grows to a foot tall or so. The flowers look like they are just about to open even when mature.

The flowers of prairie smoke will catch your interest, and so will the seedheads. As the seeds begin to form, the slender styles of the flowers elongate to become around two inches long, forming a sort of reddish feathery tail. They are said to resemble wisps of smoke, thus the common name prairie smoke.

Chuck Lura has a broad knowledge of "Natural North Dakota"and loves sharing that knowledge with others. Since 2005, Chuck has written a weekly column, “Naturalist at Large,” for the Lake Metigoshe Mirror, and his “The Naturalist” columns appear in several other weekly North Dakota newspapers.
Related Content