Helleborus orientalis

Hellaborus orientalis (340)

Common names:

  • Christmas Rose
  • Lenten Rose

Location in the Gardens:

Season of interest:

  • The plant is perennial and flowers in winter when little else is in bloom. it can sometimes push through the snow to give the first splash of garden colour.

Description of plant:

This hairless, or slightly hairy, perennial has overwintering leathery deep green basal leaves, each divided into 7 or 9 leaflets.

From January to May masses of white or greenish cream flowers becoming pink with age appear on branched stems.

It has a height and spread of about 50cm.

Propagation is by division or from seed. The sap and seed must be handled with care as it may irritate the skin. Natural propagation is spread by snails who eat the sticky seed coating and then move the seeds with the slime produced by the snails.

Ideal growing conditions and habitat:

It likes shady conditions in a moist alkaline soil.

Country of origin:

  • Native to the woodlands of Eastern Europe, Greece and Turkey

Highdown history:

Seeds of this plant were most likely sent to Sir Frederick Stern by SC Ashley, his friend, who lived in Greece in the 1920s.

Other interesting information:

All parts of this plant are poisonous.

The plant was also apparently used to the the Greek siege of Kirrha (beginning of the 6th century B.C.) where the water supply was poisoned with the hellebore plant causing such sickness that the defenders gave up. This was probably the world's first case of chemical warfare.

Hellaborus orientalis (744)

Hellaborus orientalis x2a (744)

Hellaborus orientalis x2b (744)

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