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!