Pasque flowers (Pulsatilla vulgaris) are a nationally scarce plant and are a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. There is a legend that pasque flowers spring from the blood of Romans or Danes, as they typically occur on old earthworks such as barrows and boundary banks. However it is more likely this association reflects the plant’s need for undisturbed chalk/limestone grassland, which has survived in these places as they have always been too steep to plough.

UES were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this rare plant whilst visiting Barnack Hills and Holes SSSI & NNR, Cambridgeshire in April. Pasque flowers bloom around Easter, hence the name “Pasque”, meaning “like Paschal”, “of Easter”.

Barnack Hills and Holes is an area of limestone grassland which has developed on the site of disused quarry workings. The limestone was originally formed in Jurassic times from the remains of billions of tiny sea-creatures, which lived in a warm shallow sea that covered this area 150 million years ago.

Over 300 kinds of wild plant have been found on the Hills and Holes, including eight species of orchids, rockrose, wild thyme, quaking grass, ox-eye daisy, clustered bellflower, carline thistle, and autumn gentian.

See Natural England’s website for further information on Barnack Hills and Holes SSSI & NNR.