Hellebores

Hybrid Lenten-rose Lenten-rose Stinking Hellebore Corsican Hellebore

What are they?

The hellebores are herbaceous perennials and members of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). Most species typically flower in spring, or even in late winter, making them popular as garden ornamentals and a number of species have been selectively bred to produce a range of variants. In most species, the flowers appear with the first leaves or even before them, which allows the flowers to be readily appreciated. The structure of the flowers is quite unusual; the five sepals are large and petal-like (though they may be green), while the petals may number from five to 12 and are reduced to small, tubular nectaries. The stamens are numerous.

Where are they found?

Most species are not native in the East Anglian region so are generally most likely to be found as garden throw-outs or strays from nerarby properties. However, most species prefer shade or semi-shade.

Identification

Hellebores are relatively straightforward to identify. The bell-shaped to open cup-shaped flowers with five, petal-like sepals, together with a mass of stamens are distinctive. These are followed by a small cluster of prominent, seed-bearing carpels. The leaves are usually palmate with fingered lobes. Telling the species apart from each other requires noting details of the flower colour and shape, together with details of the shape of the leaf segments and any marginal teeth. Note also whether the flowers are solitary on their stalks or appear in clusters.



Stinking Hellebore      Helleborus foetidus

Possibly native in a few woodland sites, such as in south-east Norfolk where it is abundant in a few places, but generally mostly an obvious introduction in churchyards and shady parkland borders, hedgerows etc. Flowers January to April. Flowers light green in large clusters, the sepals usually reddish tipped, held well above the leaves. Leaves stiff and shiny with many, slender leaflets, the edges finely toothed.

Stinking Hellebore Stinking Hellebore Stinking Hellebore Stinking Hellebore
Habit
Flower
Leaf
Seed capsules


Green Hellebore      Helleborus viridis

Native. Now very rare and still declining. Not recorded in Norfolk since 1953 and scattered in just a handful of locations in Suffolk, mostly in ancient woodland locations. Flowers March to April. Flowers light green, solitary or in small clusters and rather hidden amongst the leaves and leafy bracts. Leaves with relatively broad leaflets, the edges coarsely toothed.

Green Hellebore Green Hellebore Green Hellebore Green Hellebore
Habit
Flower
Leaf
Seed capsules


Corsican Hellebore      Helleborus argutifolius

Introduced from southern Europe. A popular garden plant that may occasionally be found self-seeding in churchyards, parks or urban habitats. Flowers November to March. Flowers white, solitary or up to three on a stalk, typically turning greenish or pink-tinged as the seed capsules develop. Leaves with seven to nine, broad leaflets, the edges with just a few, uneven teeth.

Corsican Hellebore Corsican Hellebore Corsican Hellebore Corsican Hellebore
Habit
Flower
Leaf
Seed capsules


Hybrid Lenten-rose      Helleborus x hybridus

Introduced. These plants are of garden origin, involving hybrids and seedlings derived largely from Helleborus orientalis. Rarely found where garden waste has been dumped, or perhaps self-seeding from nearby gardens. Flowers January to March. Flowers solitary or up to three or four on a stem, white, various shades of purple or with purple or greenish spotting. Leaves with long, fingered leaflets with toothed edges.

Hybrid Lenten-rose Hybrid Lenten-rose Hybrid Lenten-rose Hybrid Lenten-rose
Habit
Flower
Flower
Flower


Christmas-rose      Helleborus niger

Introduced from mainland Europe. A popular garden plants that may occasionally be found self-seeding in churchyards, parks and urban habitats. Flowers March to April. Flowers pale yellowish-green, in stalked clusters held well above the leaves. Leaves with three, broad and stiff leaflets, the edges very coarsely toothed.

Christmas-rose Christmas-rose Christmas-rose
Flower
Leaf
Seed capsules