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Wonderful World of Native Plants – Easter flowers


At this time of spring and renewal, it seems appropriate to consider Easter flowers. Pasqueflowers, or flowers of peace, lend their loveliness to the Easter season around the world. Some 33 species exist with picturesque names, like Easter flower, prairie crocus, wind flower and meadow anemone. They are valued as ornamentals because of their loveliness – even after drying. It is the state flower of South Dakota, the county flower for a couple of counties in England and the provincial flower of Manitoba, Canada. These are clearly beloved flowers.

It also has gone through a series of disputed nomenclatures. Googling this plant family will pull up Anemone as a genus name, along with the more common name, Pulsatilla.

Here in the Taos area, Pulsatilla patens subspecies multifida of the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family are known as high-elevation, mountain meadow flowers that like partial shade and cool, moist areas. They grow 6 to 12 inches tall and their leaves have silky hairs. They have colored sepals as opposed to petals and come in an Easter-like palette of pastel colors, mostly blues and white.

Despite their innocent Easter appearance, these can be toxic plants, so they are best viewed in their natural environment or dried. Nonetheless, Pulsatilla has long been used as a homeopathic remedy after drying, then pulverizing and turning it into pill or potion. Among other things, it has been used for anemia, sties in the eye, mucus, ear problems and headaches.

Easter daisy, or Townsendia exscapa, is another perfect flower for the season. This, too, is a high-elevation flower growing in pinelands. These white, tinged with pink or lavender, flowers bloom close to the ground, growing only about 2 inches tall and have yellow centers. The Navajo have been known to use this plant as an infusion to ease birth delivery. Ease into your season of birth with these lovely, native Easter flowers.

NPS guest speakers in April

On April 17, the speaker will be Sylvia Rains Dennis, botanist, restoration ecologist and educator for Wildlandance and Yampa restoration. Her talk is titled, “Natural Landscapes and Human Habitat: Restore, Sustain, Care.” Dennis will open with local examples of native landscapes to illustrate a range of restoration and biodiversity concerns, then focus on what it means to live compatibly and sustainably within our natural surroundings. She invites attendees to bring along examples of how habitats depend upon ecology and community for a group discussion.

The speaker has degrees in botany and forest biodiversity from Colorado State University, Oregon State University and the University of California, as well as an English degree she obtained in the U.K. – from both University of Oxford and the University of Birmingham. She has many years of teaching and developing field curricula, especially in the Rocky Mountains, under her belt. Her wide range of experience includes extensive professional collaboration and project training and she is active in the Society for Ecological Restoration and the Ecological Society of America, among many others.

Dennis founded both Wildlandance and its Colorado predecessor, Rocky Mountain Botanical Habitats. The mission of Wildlandance is to contribute to a range of natural science, survey, restoration and educational projects. Her main focus is the continuum of natural habitats. Join in at 6 p.m. Monday (April 17) to listen to and participate in this lecture and Powerpoint presentation.

In March, the Native Plant Society had a well-attended and informative talk by Dr. John Ubelaker regarding hummingbirds and their favorite plants. You can view the entire talk at tinyurl.com/mhds73l.

Now is the time to begin planting and planning for our flying jewels and other pollinators, like our native bees. Just this fall, seven species of bees native to the United States were added to the endangered species list, the first time ever for bees. Let’s give them a helping hand by planting what they need and like.

Native Plant Society welcomes suggestions for topics, speakers, special events, field trips, community outreach activities or any other learning opportunity.

For more information, contact TaosNPS at TaosNPS@gmail.com or call (505) 751-0511. Chapter website: npsnm.org/about/chapters/taos. Facebook page: Search for “Native Plant Society New Mexico Taos Chapter.”

Johnson is an active member of the national Outdoor Writers’ Association. She writes this column on behalf of the Native Plant Society of New Mexico, Taos Chapter.