April 23, 2009
The Pasque Flower is a most beautiful plant with its richly-coloured flowers and silky bracts and seed heads. It was formerly much more frequent than it is nowadays. It is a scarce perennial herb of species-rich calcareous grassland, mainly found in the southern half of England on south-facing slopes of chalk and Jurassic limestone. Flowering is normally from early April into May, hence the Easter reference in its common name. It has been lost from many localities due to habitat destruction through intensive farming and scrub encroachment. At one time it could be found on the Magnesian limestone formation as far north as Yorkshire but now it is virtually extinct. However, good populations remain in the Chilterns and Cotswolds (where it was photographed here). A thriving and well-visited population also occurs at Barnsley Warren in Gloucestershire.
At Bourton Down, one of its associates is a relatively rare variety of Hairy Violet (Viola hirta). This is the var. calcarea which differs from the type in having smaller flowers, a much shorter spur, and narrower petals (see below).