Photographed in Sandilands Provincial Forest, Manitoba, Canada.
Canon EOS 60D; 18-200mm lens
Floral Emblem of Manitoba
The prairie crocus (Anemone patens), is the first plant to bloom on the prairie each year. The true harbinger of spring, its mauve petals dot the still drab prairie landscape, often before the last winter have melted. By blooming so early, the crocus assures itself of the complete attention of available pollinators – small bees and other insects. Its seeds can then ripen by early June and if moisture is available they will germinate right away. If the prairie is too dry the seeds will go dormant, then germinate the following spring. The price for this early flowering strategy is occasional failure of the seed crop. Severe frosts (-5 to -10C) during flowering can limit seed production.
Tufts of much-divided leaves emerge once flowering is finished and the risk of severe frost is over, but still well before most other prairie plants. By mid-July, as the prairie grasses are just reaching their peak of growth, crocuses begin to die-back and prepare for another harsh prairie winter. By condensing its life cycle into the spring and early summer the crocus avoids competition with other prairie plants and avoids the hottest, driest conditions on the prairies.
The crocus is a long-lived perennial with a thick woody taproot. Individual plants may live for 50 years, or more, and a large specimen could be 30 cm across and boast more than 40 blossoms at a time.
Prairie Crocus are on the Endangered Species list due to the destruction of their habitat.