…and yet another thank you to Jackie Chambers, UBC Botanical Garden horticulturist, for providing today’s photograph and write-up. Much appreciated, as always! Jackie writes:
It was the dark purple-black flowers, the graceful curve of the stem and the silky silver hairs along the stem that caught my attention. Pulsatilla pratensis subsp. nigricans is flowering right now in the E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden. A small perennial plant native to northern Europe, the specific epithet pratensis means “of the meadows”, and gives you an idea of its native habitat.
The long soft hairs that cover the whole plant are one of the fabulous properties of Pulsatilla pratensis subsp. nigricans. The basal leaves are divided, and held on a long petiole. The nodding, bell-shaped flowers may reach 20cm tall, and are produced in late spring to early summer. For more detailed photographs, see this Czech website.
Although it is closely related to Anemone, Pulsatilla is often distinguished from its close cousin by the morphology of its seeds. Pulsatilla produces achenes that have long, plumose appendages, formed by a persistent style. In other words, a portion of the reproductive structure — the style — of the flower is retained, long after the petals and other components have withered away. Photographs of seed heads from a sampling of Pulsatilla species can be seen here: Pasque flower. The common name of windflower is sometime applied to Pulsatilla species, in reference to the way these feathery seeds are dispersed.
Pulsatilla pratensis subsp. nigricans is used in traditional medicine in Europe to treat a range of ailments. In the late eighteenth century, Anton Freiherr von Störck (1731 -1803), physician to the Austrian empress Maria Theresia, was one of the first people to attempt to quantify the effectiveness of this remedy in clinical trials. In his career, Störck investigated medicinal properties of several poisonous European plant species.