Sunday, April 08, 2012

Pulsatilla/Pasque Flower - Easter flower

Pulsatilla - Pasque Flower (Easter Flower) - Kobjælde

Pulsatilla pratensis, Pasque flower, Nikkende kobjælde: The 6 purple flower heads are silky haired and longer than the many yellow stamens. The fruit stand is easy to recognize. It looks like a powder puff, the seeds are hairy and has a 5-6 cm long griffel. The fruit stand is not nodding like the flower is, but upright. The flower is rarely yellow-green or white. It can make hybrids with Pulsatilla vulgaris, but this is very rare.

The pratensis can be mistaken for the vulgaris, but the vulgaris is upright while flowering, and it is more bluish purple than the pratensis. The pratensis has a massive stem, filled with marrow, while the vulgaris has a hollow stem.It flowers in April-May (in DK) here and there on sunny hills, especially in North Jutland and upon the Isles. It grows in open calcium-rich sand- or gravel soil and is especially known from pastures, hills and banks.

Pulsatilla pratensis is relatively rare in Denmark.

The Pulsatilla pratensis is vaguely poisonous and with a sharp taste of the substance anemonol - and it is avoided by grazing animals. The Danish name Nikkende Kobjælde means nodding cowbell, and the nodding flowers look like the bells around the cow's neck in Norway and the Alps - but the name might also have a relation to its habitat and to the flowering, which is when the cows come out on grass in spring. Like many other flowers it had many nicknames in the old days: fluffy boys, cowbell, ox-ear, king's bell , boy's shaving brush. People appreciated it because it was one of the finest spring flowers and the very first which like a little bell was being moved here and there by the wind, like it was ringing people and cattle to dinner. It was swept in the finest fur and the fluffy flowerbuds looked like little feathered baby birds in a nest. "It appears like a small fluffy troll in his tight white fur". "It looks like a little harefoot springing up from the sand".
There were many sayings about this little Easter flower.

Pulsatilla vulgaris/ Common Pasque flower/Opret Kobjælde
Pulsatilla vulgaris, Common Pasque Flower, Dane's blood /Opret Kobjælde appears with the bell-shaped flower in early spring. It grows here and there in Jutland. It has purple flowers, but there are white and light red sorts. Its habitat is pastures or banks with a calcium-rich gravel soil. It is dependent on that grass and other aggresive herbaceous plants are being grazed or cut. Upon the grazed areas the plant is favored by that the cattle avoid it because of its toxicity. In Cotswold in England is a large colony of Pulsatilla vulgaris.

The Pulsatilla vulgaris is the most important ingredience in the French tonic hépatotum, taken for the liver (Crise de foie) and for the production of gall.  It has some old nicknames too, like blue weather herb and cow ball.

Pulsatilla vulgaris is rare in Denmark and should not be plucked in nature.

The Pulsatilla vernalis , Spring Pasque Flower/ Vår-Kobjælde), is a very low plant, with redbrown or purple, silky haired flower head. It grows in a few places in Jutland. Large bell-shaped, first nodding, then upright flowers - and the vernalis cannot be mistaken for any other flower plant in Denmark. After flowering a large tuft of light seed-wool is formed. The vernalis flowers in April-May-June on dry, poor soil in heaths in Jutland. The fresh plant is poisonous. It was used as a medical herb in various diseases. It was latest seen in Denmark 10 april 2009 in Ulfborg statssskovdistrikt. The Pulsatilla vernalis is the county flower of Oppland, Norway and is depicted in the county coat of arms.

Pulsatilla vernalis is very rare in Denmark , and it is totally listed. 

Pulsatilla in general:
Folk Medicine:
1546: a wine decoct from root or seeds to drink in order to drive out bladder stones and menses; the herb or destilled water from the herb to cleanse bad wounds, remove dead meat.

1648: the crushed plant placed as a compress upon the wrist against coldfever (malaria); the juice rubbed upon warts; the dried and pulverized root provokes sneeze like snuff.

1688: the flower used as a compress on a fever pulse; a tea from the plant was drunk against gouts. The herb was sold in pharmacies.
Other Use:
copy from Inks and pens.
Children made the fruitstand wet and combed back "the hair" and braided blades of grass into it;  they tickle each other with this "hairy brush" under the nose and said: " Do you wish to smell this hairy boy?" The stiff stalk with the fruit stand is called the boys' shaving brush.

1761: From the flower juice was produced green ink. Easter eggs were coloured green with the flowers in the boiling water.

In WWII  it was recommended to use the roots, which contains saponin as a surrogate for soap bark for  delicate wash.

Source: V. J Brøndegaard, folk og flora, bd. 2 Dansk Etnobotanik,  Rosenkilde og Bagger; Danmarks fugle og Natur, Felthåndbogen, april 2012. 

Photo, Bjerre, Thy: stig bachmann nielsen, 


Kittie Howard said...

I've seen this flower but knew nothing about it. But Nature gave us a flower and so much more. All of those uses are amazing. I also loved the connection with the green ink and Easter eggs. A beautiful post, Grethe.

Thyra said...

Hej Kittie! Thank you! I liked the connection to the green ink too, I hadn't imagined it could be used for this. Nature is really amazing. And now it is soon spring here too! Hurra! Have a nice day!
Grethe `)

Kittie Howard said...

You're a sweetie for stopping by, Grethe. Unexpected, but welcome, guests left this a.m. I'm tidying up and will relax with your e-mail later. Post-Easter, it's Cherry Blossom Festival time, hence guests and more guests and all a whirlwind. But fun in its own crazy way!

Thyra said...

Hej Kittie, I'll see you soon. Have been out today. Saw 4 red kites hovering above my head. They were so beautiful.
See you soon!
Grethe ´)