The first pasqueflower in bloom at Martin Down, Hampshire - March 2022

The first pasqueflower to bloom in 2022 at Martin Down National Nature Reserve, on the Hampshire/Dorset border.

The elusive pasqueflowers of Martin Down

For the last three years, I’ve been photographing the beautiful pasqueflowers (Pulsatilla vulgaris) that grow at Martin Down, on the Hampshire/Dorset border.

For a couple of years I thought there were only about seven of these rare and threatened plants growing amongst Martin Down’s 350 hectares of chalk grassland and scrub, but this year I discovered more pasqueflowers in another location. That brings the total number of plants to about twenty. That said, unless you know their exact whereabouts, it’s still a bit like looking for the proverbial ‘needle in a haystack.’

At one point this year there were another two plants growing close together that I’d seen in bud, but when I returned a week later they’d both completely vanished. I fear that they’ve been dug up as they were right next to a main path, but on my second visit there was absolutely no sign that they’d ever been there. If they have been taken then it’s very sad.

The first pasqueflower of the 2022 season blooming at Martin Down, Hampshire

Sunny and warm weather, then snow!

Aside from a quick recce about a week ago to look for signs of pasqueflowers (they only appear around Easter time), today was my first ‘proper’ visit to Martin Down this year. On both occasions, the weather was really quite warm, unlike the last few years when it’s mostly been hat and glove weather as you steel yourself against the chill wind.

Update: on a third visit, it was windy but sunny and then I happened to look up across the fields and spotted a band of something white in the distance, moving towards me. I couldn’t make out if it was rain, mist or what, but as the sun disappeared and the wind picked up even more I realised that whatever it was wasn’t good.

Well, you’ve never seen someone pack up their camera gear so fast! It was lucky I’d spotted the change in weather because within about two minutes I was engulfed in a heavy snowstorm, that had seemingly come from nowhere. That marked the end of taking photos, although I’d had enough by then anyway.

Pasqueflower at Martin Down Nature Reserve, 2022.
Pasqueflowers at Martin Down, 2022.

The gorgeous pasqueflowers at Martin Down National Nature Reserve, Hampshire.

This year these beautiful, tiny, and hairy plants, with their nodding purple flowers, started flowering earlier than usual, probably by about a week. I suppose the relatively mild weather brought them forward and I do wonder if the two other main sites where they grow wild in the UK are experiencing the same thing?

In the past, I’ve photographed pasqueflowers at both of these locations – Therfield Heath and Barnsley Warren – the former is where the real ‘pasqueflower action’ takes place!

[Update 02/04/22: flowering is now well underway at Therfield Heath, Hertfordshire. This has the largest number of Pulsatilla vulgaris plants in the UK].