The South Dakota State Flower is the Pasque flower. It is also known as the May Day flower, the prairie crocus, the windflower, the Easter Flower and the meadow anemone. Regardless of its name in a particular reference, the Pasque flower is embedded in the history of South Dakota.
Long before European pioneers ventured this far west into the Great Plains of the North America continent, the Plain Indians who lived among the Pasque flowers were aware of its mystique. The native name for the flower is “hosi cekpa” meaning “child’s navel.” Found throughout the Plains Indians’ culture in the forms of songs and legends, this flower is the first to bloom and was praised for signaling the start of spring. As Europeans began to settle in the area, they too admired the beauty of the first budding plant in the season. (The Pasque Flower is the first flower to bloom in South Dakota after the long, cold winters for which the region is known. The flower represents the warmer season of spring is soon to arrive.)
When the time came to decide on the South Dakota State Flower there were several favorites to be decided among. From the selected were the cactus flowers and the wild rose. However, on May 5, 1903 the Pasque Flower was selected as the South Dakota State Flower. When the initial bill that was presented to the state’s General Assembly and eventually approved, the flower was referred to as the American Pasque Flower, (Anemone patens). The bill disregarded the plant’s historical ties to the Native American culture and its historical roots. It wasn’t until 1919 that the South Dakota General Assembly changed the flowers name. No longer would the state’s flower be called the American Pasque, but rather the Pulsatilla Hirsutissima. Along with the 1903 referendum, the General Assembly also added a motto to the state’s flower emblem titled, “I lead.” South Dakota is the only state in the Union to incorporate a motto along with its floral emblem, hence the simple and grounded statement.
Known to grow throughout the region, the South Dakota State Flower is a small, lavender flower and a member of the buttercup family. Although the plant’s purple pedals and golden center are a beauty to look upon, the Pasque flower is highly toxic. The flower is known to produce cardiogenic toxins along with oxytoxins, chemicals which slow the heart in human beings. Used as a form of medicine by Native Americans for centuries, excess use of the plant can cause diarrhea, vomiting, convulsions, hypotension, and even a coma.
Extracts of the Pasque Flower have been used as treatment for reproductive problems such as epididymitis and premenstrual syndrome. The Blackfeet Indians of the region used the South Dakota State Flower to induce both abortions and childbirth. However, let it be known that the Pasque Flower should not be consumed during pregnancy or if the mother is lactating. The extracts from the South Dakota State Flower can also be used as a sedative and for the treatment of coughs.