Capitol Corridor
University of California
Capitol Corridor

Winter's Hardy Hellebore

Beyond the legend, myth and poisonous reputation surrounding this member of the Ranunculaceae family, the Hellebore is perhaps one of the most an intriguing plants I've invited into my garden. With a color palate stretching from dark purple, maroon, and red to pink, yellow and white, this perennial fills a void in the flowerbed when little else is blooming. A plus is that the five petals of a Hellebore bloom don't drop off but stay on the plant, eventually turning green as shown in the photo below entitled: NOTE the greening of the flower.
 
Hellebores prefer well-drained soil that's a bit alkaline. While they appreciate shade or partial shade, some species grow in sun and more acidic soil. With over 20 species to choose from, this 12 to 18-inch plant with its rhizomatous roots, sturdy stems, and thick dark green leaves is worth getting to know.
 
Here are a couple of tidbits about its history:
1. The ancient Greek botanist, Dioscorides, and Pliny, the Elder, supposedly treated madness, melancholy, and worms using the dry powder from the plant's roots to induce vomiting. 
2. The Gauls coated the tips of their arrowheads in its powder to ensure the death of their enemies. 
3. In the middle ages, Hellebore was burned to protect homes from evil spirits. 
4. Even a 20th-century English herbalist, Maude Grieve, was said to scatter Hellebore powder into the air and on the ground so she was invisible.
 
Whatever you believe, whether it's fact or fiction, the following is true: 
1. The Hellebore plant is susceptible to fungus botrytis. 
2. A gardener can develop a skin irritation from contact with protanemonin, a chemical produced when plant is injured. 
3. The specific species Hellebore niger contains glycosides, known to cause cardiac issues. (H. niger, also called Christmas rose, grows over a foot tall and a foot wide, with large white blooms.)
4. Hellebore roots are emetic (medicinal substance inducing vomiting) that can be fatal.
 
For learn more about Hellebores, visit:
http://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/hellebore.html   -  Hellebore: The Lenten Rose by Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor, University of Vermont
 
https://www.gardendesign.com/flowers/hellebores.html   -  Hellebores: How to Grow & Care for Hellebore Flowers
 

photos by Launa Herrmann
photos by Launa Herrmann

Hellebore2
Hellebore2

NOTE the greening of flower
NOTE the greening of flower

Helebore 3
Helebore 3

Hellebore4
Hellebore4

Hellebore5
Hellebore5

Posted on Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 2:22 PM

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