Wild Crocus


Few in southeastern Minnesota would deny that today is the first real day of spring of 2013.  It is as if the earth danced vernal today.  Blue skies and temperatures in the mid 40’s by 8am, my mission was clear.  This morning I hiked up Barn Bluff with hopes of seeing the pasque flowers.

This being my third spring in Red Wing, the bluff did not disappoint.  I enjoyed thousands of the furry little purple gems.  Seeing the crocus on the prairie edge made me laugh out loud. Anemone patens var multifida  or wild crocus is in the family Rannunculacea and is native to the US, Europe, Russia and Mongolia.  It’s name “Pasque” comes from Old French for Easter in reference to the spring bloom – “patens” means spreading.  it is a hearty soul, often blooming through the snow.


If you take the hike, get on your belly and enjoy their furry stems and leaves, velvet to the touch.  In the morning light the petals shine like stained glass among the dry little blue stem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium.)  

We don’t know how lucky we are to have the bluff top prairies right in our back yards.  While less the 1% of native tall grass prairie remains, short grass prairies are a little more common (see http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/habitat/grlands/grasses.htm for more information on prairies.)


Thoreau and his companion Horace Mann delighted in the  crocus on Barn Bluff when they visited Red Wing more than 150 years ago.  They noted in their journal and letters home that “Pulsatilla still in bloom on top” on June 23, 1861.

It was an exciting hike up the bluff today.  I thought I would see if the snow had melted on the north end (it hadn’t) and while there an avalanche of basket ball-sized rocks tumbled down the wall just 100 feet in front of me.  With in a minute there were six turkey vultures circling – luckily the tumbling rocks missed me and they had nothing to discover!

3 thoughts on “Wild Crocus”

  1. Every early spring, my dad took me and my siblings to a prairie field in North Dakota to discover the blooming wild crocus. He could spot virgin meadows and took us to several different locations. He would allow us to bring one bloom back to show Mom, but we left all others undisturbed. I remember the feeling of the warm sun on the side of the hill and the crunch of the dried prairie grasses under my feet. Us kids would grab a small handful of what was left of the snow for a chance at hitting each other with a snowball one last time for the season.
    This is a memory I hold dear to my heart.
    My dad is 88 years old, and recently moved from Arizona to Minnesota to be near me and my family. Being in the cold weather again has been a little tough, so I want to remind him that spring does indeed come to Minnesota, too.
    Can anyone please direct me to a prairie in southern Minnesota where I could take my dad to rediscover the joy of the wild crocus together? We’re in the Owatonna/Waseca area.
    Thank you.

    1. What a beautiful story Char! Since you are replying to this post you likely know there are wild crocus/pasque flowers that bloom on HeMniCan/Barn Bluff in Red Wing. It is a bit of an uphill hike so I am not sure if your 88 year old dad could make the trek or not. I am not familiar with prairies near Owatonna but suggest you contact a local DNR office or state park. The pasque flowers are but swollen buds at soil level up in HeMniCan this week but I suspect will bloom in a week or two.

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