Spring comes to the prairie…

red bird in a tree

Male cardinal singing from the top of a cherry tree on the edge of the prairie.

Spring has finally arrived, at least in Southern Wisconsin. (Northern Wisconsin just received 12-18 inches of snow.) It took a while to get here. The snow kept hanging on. Last year spring was here before we could even register that winter had ended. This year it built slowly. Starting with an increase in noise level… It started with the cardinal, many of which overwinter here, singing from the tops of the trees. The bird’s song got louder and louder as more and more birds returned. This week the American Goldfinch returned.

Once it was clear that spring had in fact returned I started my yearly pasque flower vigil.  As things started to green up I feared that it would be a year without pasque flowers. I was afraid they might have been affected by last year’s drought. Things continued to green and I continued to worry… I kept thinking that it’s never this green when the pasque flower blooms.

Finally, just after Earth Day, April 22, I noticed buds starting to push through the gravel and prairie grasses. A couple of days later I saw a couple of flowers start to open. A week later there were lots of flowers open… more than I remember seeing in previous years. Then there was the real surprise!

purple, hairy flowers

Pasque flowers as they progressed from the ground to bud.

light purple flowers with yellow centers

Pasque Flowers

purple flower with light showing through the petals

Pasque Flower

We did it! We did it! We really did it!

This year we had pasque flowers on and around the base of the prairie remnant! We had been collecting seed for the past 10 years from an area where there are pasque flowers and spreading the seed throughout other areas of the prairie.

When living with a prairie things take time and you have to wait for them. It can take years for a prairie plant to mature and flower. For this reason I need to keep my eyes open… you never know what you’ll find.

Phenology Notes:
April 10, 2011 – I noted pasque flowers were blooming.
March 18, 2012 – The pasque flowers were already blooming… 2012 had a very early spring with a late spring frost that wiped out much of the apple crop and almost all of the sour cherry crop in Wiscosin and Michigan.
This year I did not see pasque flower bud until April 22, 2013.

light purple flowers with yellow centers

Pasque Flowers… note the one on the left has a spider that looks like the dried grass around the flower.

light purple flowers with yellow centers

Pasque Flowers Fully Open

To see more masque flower photos click here.

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