Helllebores – Helleborus spp.
This oddly mild winter has us already anticipating spring flowers. One genus you can generally rely on to be in bloom around this time of year is Helleborus. Native to Eurasia, species in this genus are commonly known as Lenten rose, Christmas rose, or (simply) hellebores. They are a popular addition to dry shade gardens, and as a result, there are numerous species, hybrids, and cultivars to choose from.
Historically, hellebores have been used medicinally due to toxic alkaloids produced in all parts of the plant. A side benefit of this is that deer and rabbits generally leave them alone. Humans should also avoid eating them and should instead appreciate them for their beautiful late winter/early spring blooms and interesting foliage. Hellebore flowers are particularly showy due to the enlarged, sometimes colorful sepals that are easily mistaken for petals. The actual “petals” are small, tubular nectaries found in a ring at the center of the sepals surrounded by a tight grouping of the flower’s sex organs.
Several varieties of hellebores can be found blooming at Idaho Botanical Garden in both the English and Meditation Gardens. We hope you will plan regular visits in the coming weeks to see all this early spring has in store.
Written by IBG horticulturist, Daniel Murphy