NATURE RAMBLINGS: Bragging rights come with this sign of the season

PHOTO BY SALLY ROTH In our mountain canyon, finding the first blooming pasqueflower confers bragging rights...until morel season comes along.

Sally Roth

sroth@northfortynews.com

Forget the first robin—in the foothills and mountains of northern Colorado, pasqueflowers are the harbinger of spring.

“Pasques” are among the very first wildflowers to bloom. And competition to find the first one is a serious matter in our mountain canyon.

This year, I started looking for them way back in January, even though I know that pasque (from the Hebrew paschal) refers to Passover and Easter, the time when they usually bloom.

But, hey, it’s been a mild winter. (Getting a jump on the competition? Okay, maybe that factored in, too.)

So far, I’ve never been first to spot a blooming pasqueflower in our mountain community. Though I did come close one year.

The sun was warm on my back that day as I strolled the meadow beside the house, and a big flock of little pine siskins were indefatigably singing away in the budding aspens.

“Will you pipe down?! Sounds like a jungle around here!”

I was only half-joking—the cacophony of siskin whistles and wheezes was making it hard to hear the singing pine grosbeak atop the spruce, let alone the very quiet love songs of the Steller’s jays.

But mostly my eyes were on the ground, because my biggest obsession is plants.

No signs of new life yet…until I got to the big granite boulder in the meadow. “My rock garden,” I call it, even though it’s Mother Nature that planted it.

Lo and behold, new leaves were sprouting from the clumps of penstemons, wallflowers, and wild geraniums tucked into the crevices, thanks to the extra warmth soaked up by the big rock.

“Doin’ good, guys,” I complimented them, my head filled with visions of the blue, pink, orange, yellow “rock garden” wildflowers soon to come.

Pasqueflowers? I wasn’t even thinking about them anymore. Which of course is when I found the first beautiful purple blossoms.

Right under my boots.

After guiltily propping their broken necks back up, I rushed to the house, yelling “Pasqueflowers! Pasqueflowers!” as I burst in the door.

“Oh, you mean like the ones Ward found yesterday?” Matt asked casually, turning his laptop screen so I could see the photo our neighbor had posted.

Grrr.

Maybe this year. And if not, well, the consolation prize is pretty darn good: Pasqueflowers are an absolute, without-any-doubt sign of spring. Even though it’s likely to snow a few more times right on their heads, that white stuff won’t last long. Once sleeping pasqueflowers wake up, spring is impossible to stop. Yay, we all win!

PHOTO BY SALLY ROTH
Spring harbinger pasqueflowers look like furry crocuses.

A Moveable Feast

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Easter Sunday falls on April Fool’s Day this year. Passover, the Jewish high holiday that celebrates Moses leading the Jews out of slavery in Egypt, begins on March 31.

But Easter is a “moveable feast,” whose exact date depends on the full moon. Easter Sunday takes place on the Sunday closest to the full moon that occurs on or after March 21. This year, that full moon falls on March 31, so April Fool’s Day it is. The date of Passover changes year to year, too, because it’s based on the Hebrew calendar, which also uses the moon.

Regardless of the exact date, Easter and Passover always take place in spring. So do the first blooms of pasqueflowers, which usually push up in March to early April in the foothills, moving higher along with the spring. Time to start looking!

PHOTO BY MATT BARTMANN
Garden versions developed from a European relative have bigger blossoms in gorgeous pink, purple and red shades. Plants run about $10-$15 at local nurseries or online.

 

 

 

 

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