The Pulsatilla genus includes some of the loveliest of all flowering plants. In early spring when their woolly, flower buds first appear, through to flowering-time, their beautiful flowers will attract praise from all that see them.
From the time their enchanting, feathery seed-heads are formed, through to autumn, their hairy foliage always looks attractive. These plants are always a delight. The flowers become silky fruiting seed-heads which are interesting in the garden and are also good for flower arrangements.
Pulsatilla vulgaris is now a very rare native species and a plant with exceptional beauty. A low growing plant with nodding violet-purple blooms with bright golden stamens. The silky foliage is deeply divided and covered with soft silvery hairs.
The common name of Pasque Flower comes from the French word Pâques, meaning Easter, the time of year when Pulsatilla vulgaris blooms. The flowers are produced very early, often opening while still under snow cover.
Hardy and long lived. Pulsatilla are an easy plant to grow, the plants can develop into robust clumps after only a few years, with a dozen or more blooms out at any one time. They are an almost essential plant for the rock garden as they will tolerate a range of conditions and really hard winters.
The plants grow to a height of 15 to 30cm (6 to 12in) tall, and a spread of 20cm (8in). They are excellent at the front of the perennial border or cold greenhouse, and can also be shown off planted in pots and containers, their main requirement is a well-drained soil. But be aware, pulsatilla, especially vulgaris, do not like to be pot-bound.
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
Pulsatilla vulgaris has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Sow in late winter to early spring, February to April or sow in late summer to Autumn, August to October.
Trim any of the tails that are left on the seed and sow on the surface of lightly firmed, moist seed compost in pots or trays. Just cover the seed with a light sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. After sowing, do not exclude light as this helps germination.
Keep at a temperature of between 15 to 20°C (59 to 68°F). Keep the surface of the compost moist but not waterlogged; germination is erratic, taking between 30 to 180 days. The seed may germinate after a couple of weeks in summer or sometimes will appear in spring after going through the winter following sowing.
When the seedlings are large enough to handle, carefully transplant the seedlings into 7.5cm (3in) pots to grow on. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out. While the seedlings can be moved when young, but established plants have long, fleshy taproots and don’t like being disturbed.
Plant 30cm (12in) apart. For best results, provide well-drained soil in full sun.
As long as the plants are given a fertile, gritty, well-drained soil in full sun they should be long-lived. If the plants are left with wet roots over winter they are likely to rot and die.
There are no particular pests or diseases affecting Pulsatilla, apart from slugs and snails, which can feast on emerging buds.
The roots are easily damaged, so digging and dividing your Pasque Flowers should only be done when absolutely necessary and then, it should be done during the winter. Root cuttings can be taken at that time.
The plants self-seed readily and their seedlings can be transplanted to a permanent spot easily while they are still young.
The plants go dormant in mid-summer, so be sure to mark the planting spot with a stake as they disappear from sight so that you don't accidentally dig them up.
Pulsatilla flowers and seed are toxic and are not to be eaten. The plant is a member of the same family as Buttercup and contains the glycoside ranunculin. It has a very bitter taste which produces an immediate burning in the mouth. Fatal in a large amount but there are no records of anyone ever consuming enough because of the taste and effect.
Alpines and Rockeries, and Flower Borders and Beds. Containers and Troughs. Flower arranging.
Most of the 30-plus species of Pulsatilla are found in Europe and temperate Asia, but their range extends as far east as Japan, and two species occur in North America. Pulsatilla vulgaris has a natural distribution that stretches from western Europe and as far east as Siberia and as far north as parts of England and Sweden.
It thrives on dry, sunny, infertile meadows and grassland on south or south west facing slopes in sparse pine forests with sandy or limy soils on plains and in elevations up to 1000 metres. It cannot survive on fertile ground and disappears at once if the ground is fertilised. In Switzerland, all species of Pulsatilla are protected by law.
It is the county flower of the English counties of Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. A large colony occurs on publicly accessible land in the Cotswolds, at the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust's Gloucestershire Pasqueflower Reserve.
The genus name Pulsatilla is derived from the Latin pulsare meaning to pulsate in reference to the movement of the flowers in the wind.
The species name vulgaris is a Latin adjective meaning ‘common’, referring to the fact that it was a well-known plant.
The old English common name was originally ‘pass flower’, adopted from the French ‘passe fleur’. Gerarde changed it to ‘Pasque Flower’ from the French word Pâques, meaning Easter, the time of year when Pulsatilla vulgaris blooms.
In North America they’re sometimes classified as anemones and in Europe, Pulsatilla vulgaris was named Anemone pulsatilla by Carl Linnaeus in the 18th century. Recent phylogenetic studies, which look at DNA to establish relationships, have suggested they should be included within the genus Anemone, but for now, at least, the name Pulsatilla is the one you’re more likely to come across.
The common name for both anemones and pulsatillas is Wind Flower. The Greek physician Theophrastus (3rd century BC) named the plant ánemos, meaning wind, in reference to the shaggy little fruits that are dispersed by the wind.
It is a member of the Buttercup family, Ranunculaceae.
Pharmaceutically, Pulsatilla vulgaris was formerly called ’Herba venti’. It is the main ingredient in the French tonic hépatoum, taken for ‘crise de foie’. Translating as 'crisis of the liver', these words describe a malady from which the French suffer. Given that rich food and alcohol are two substances that seriously challenge the function of the liver, it isn't surprising that the French, notably hearty consumers of both, suffer from crises de foie.
French doctors are trying ever so gently to convince their public that it is the result of dietary indiscretions, meals eaten too quickly, too rich, or too generously 'irrigated'...with aperitifs, wine, and digestifs, and are indeed nothing more than...indigestion and a hangover.
To treat this mythic malady? Reach for a bottle of Hepatoum. This quintessentially French medication comes in a bottle, and is a clear, yellow colour. This traditional medication's active ingredient is an extract of the flowering perennial plant Anemone pulsatilla, believed to facilitate elimination of bile - but the main ingredient by volume is alcohol!
- Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit
- Additional Information
Packet Size 100mg Average Seed Count 40 Seeds Family Ranunculaceae Genus Pulsatilla Species vulgaris Cultivar Wildflower of Europe, including the UK Synonym Anemone pulsatilla Common Name Pasque Flower, Windflower, Meadow Anemone Other Common Names Easterflower, Crowfoot Other Language Names Fr: Anémone des Alpes Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Violet/Purple in Early Spring through to Early Autumn Height 15-30cm (6-12in) Spread 22-30cm (9-12in) Position Full Sun Soil Must be well drained Notes Alpine