Spotted! Pasque Flower

Spring has certainly sprung here in the Wet Mountain Valley. Nobody leaves the house without plenty of layers in case a warm spell morphs quickly into a water-replenishing snow storm. Calves cavort in every pasture while ranchers run on little to no sleep making sure calving season goes off without a hitch. Mountain mahogany and wax currant bushes sport brand new buds of greenery, hay fields are carpeted with emerald green, and even the cloud formations are starting to look more like summer than winter.

Pasque Flower

Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla Patens) Photo credit:: Patty Reagin

In our little spot in the Valley, the horses range far afield looking for sweet and tender young grasses. Bluebirds have returned to our nesting box for the summer season and are fighting off the tree swallows for ownership. The distinctive sounds of red-winged blackbirds and meadowlarks can be heard all day and Tom turkeys wander the oak brush near our house in full feather, gobbling loudly for the attention of hens as mating season progresses.

tree reduce

Photo credit: Dan Ballard

Aspen and cottonwood stay stubbornly bare - wise to the abrupt Colorado weather changes and refusing to believe the warm weather means the end of cold and snow (usually they are right). But the diminutive and surprisingly hardy pasque flowers, harbingers of summer wildflower season, are out in force.

During our last bout of extreme wind I took advantage of one brief calm(ish) spell to shake off the cabin fever and find some spring. The dazzling nature of the macro-scenery here usually keeps my eyes up, gazing at the mountains, the sweeping clouds, the star-filled skies, but today I walked with my head down, and every step I took another little flower caught my eye, a lavender and white flash of color in the tans and browns of the winter meadow. Often bees or other small pollinators sat inside, enjoying an early season meal. I even stumbled across an unusually large grouping, a lovely bouquet nestled in among some warming rocks.

photo cred Hal Walter

Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla Patens) Photo credit: Hal Walter

Just as I was getting used to the warmth of the sun, a strong, cold gust of wind swept across the meadow. The flowers began closing up in response, even as I was snapping a picture. Rapidly building clouds obscured the sun, and a few snowflakes blew in from the nearby mountains. By the end of the next day we had over 8 inches of life-giving snow on the ground. The pasque flowers stay closed and hidden under the wet heavy blanket, but soon enough that snow will be gone, as will the brief reign of the pasque flower, and the meadows will be filled with the dramatic, eye-catching flowers of summer.

About the author: Patty Reagin is a freelance writer and volunteer for San Isabel Land Protection Trust. Her monthly blog for San Isabel titled "Spotted" features the beauty of the flora and fauna in our region. When Patty's not behind a computer working she can be found outside, taking in the beauty of the Wet Mountain Valley with her dogs and horses.

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