Pulsatilla chinensis: Mini tulips that can be highly toxic
By Li Yujun
In April, the flowers of Pulsatilla chinensis are very impressive. They look like mini tulips, covered with a thick and dense hair. However, its delicate six violet "petals" are actually sepals.
The Chinese name for Pulsatilla chinensis is "baitouweng," which means white-haired old man. In mountainous Beijing in mid-July, there are often clusters of plants which look like dandelions on the grass, but a little bit larger than dandelions, with longer hairs. That is the fruits of the Pulsatilla chinensis.
Pulsatilla chinensis has a typical feature of Ranunculaceae: the leaves are thinly dissected compound leaves. Another important feature is that when present, fruit is composed of dark brown achenes with a hairy tail. These hairs are styles, and will stretch after successful pollination.
As a member of the Ranunculaceae, Pulsatilla chinensis is not an ordinary plant: they were used as poisons. The water soaked in the rhizomes of Pulsatilla chinensis can kill many insects such as aphids, maggots, and larvae, so do not eat beautiful flowers in the wild.
Pulsatilla chinensis is widely distributed in China and can be found in grasslands and forests in many provinces, such as Sichuan, Hubei, and Jiangsu.