Western Pasqueflower

One is a plant with delicate-looking creamy white flowers emerging from the ground where snow might still linger. The other is a plant with unusual mop-headed “flowers”. Wait. They are the same plant?

The first time I saw this weird plant, which looked like a head full of blonde hair, was when we hiked Skyline Trail in Mt Rainier National Park.

Old man of the mountain. Photo taken from Skyline Trail, Mt Rainier National Park

Then in several times while hiking in the Canadian Rockies, we saw this showy creamy white flowers with attractive yellow center on the ground where it had recently been covered in snow.

From Parker Ridge Trail, Banff National Park

The two plants weren’t anywhere resembled each other, so we never thought that they are the same plant until we hiked to Helen Lake in Banff National Park.

Both plants in the above pictures are Western Pasqueflower or White Pasqueflower (Anemone occidentalis, also Pulsatilla occidentalis). It’s a perennial, herbaceous plant, typically found on the mid- to high-elevation mountain slopes and meadows. It’s native to the Western USA and Canada.

As soon as the snow melted, the plant sends out its blossoms before its foliage develops. After a few days the petals drop, leaving it with a small, unassuming green flower heads that slowly transformed into seed heads with long feather-like hairs attached to the seeds. This stage of the plant persists well into late summer and fall.

During our hike to Helen Lake, we were fortunate to see  Western Pasqueflower in various stages in the same area. That was when we realized that they were just the same plants at different developmental phases. What a fascinating plant!

From Burstall Pass Trail, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
From Helen Lake Trail, Banff National Park. The petals almost completed fell off this flower head.

The seed heads at different stages.


From Skyline Trail, Mt Rainier National Park. You can see that some of the seeds were separated from the flower stalk already.


  1. WyEast Blog
  2. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
  3. Wikipedia

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