Pulsatilla vulgaris – Pasque flower

The Pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) is a member of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) and is closely related to the great Pasque flower (Pulsatilla grandis). It grows on chalky, sunny terrains in Europe but is now found so rarely that it is protected.

© DHU

Another common name for the plant is “Easter flower”, Pasque being the Old French spelling for “Easter”. It is around this time of year that the plant blossoms. Other names for the Pasque flower are wind flower, meadow anemone, common Pasque flower, Dane’s blood. The term Pulsatilla derives from the Latin pulsare – beat – and describes the to and fro motion of the plant in the wind.

The Pasque flower has blue or purple flowers with yellow stamens. The petals, the outer surfaces of which are hairy, grow to 4 cm in length. The flowers are always solitary, appearing between April and May. The leaves only develop on flowering. The Pasque flower grows to a height of 5 to 40 cm, thriving in dry grassland, dry woods and shrub land. Pasque flowers are also frequently used in gardens as ornamental plants. Their root system can extend 1.5 metres into the earth, therefore benefiting from water reserves that can no longer be reached by other plants.

Caution, the plant is poisonous! It contains the toxin, protoanemonin, which irritates the skin. The slightest contact with the skin can lead to swelling, blistering and inflammation of the affected area. The mucous membranes of the mouth and throat can suffer the same effects. Internally, the toxin will cause vomiting, nervous system disorders, gastrointestinal complaints, as well as cramps and inflammation of the kidneys. Its toxicity is negated by homeopathic dilution, however.

Pasque flowers were used in ancient times as a remedy. Hippocrates used the plant to treat states of hysteria and stimulate menstruation. Pedanios Dioscurides, a Greek physician in the first century AD and the most famous pharmacologist in ancient history, recommended that the plant be used to treat eye problems and ulcers. Hieronymus Bock (1498-1554), the German doctor and botanist, wrote that the “Pasque flower is a good remedy against pestilence”, the “bite or sting of a poisonous animal” and that it “banishes warts and spots”. Jacob Tabernaemontanus (1522–1590), another German doctor and botanist, recommended the Pasque flower for the same conditions, but added fever and prevention of dropsy.

Pulsatilla is a protected species! In 1996, it was chosen by the Hamburg Foundation for Nature Conservation and the Foundation for the Protection of Endangered Plants as flower of the year, thereby drawing attention to its precarious status.

In homeopathy, the Pasque flower is highly regarded under the name Pulsatilla. It is used to treat a wide range of symptoms and is considered a predominantly female remedy.