Aristocrats of the woodland garden

hellebore flower

Commonly known as hellebores, the genus Helleborus consists of approximately 20 species of herbaceous perennial flowering dicots. These plants belong to the buttercup family Ranunculaceae. Common names include “winter rose”, “Christmas rose” and “Lenten rose”; however, hellebores are not closely related to the roses.    The leaves are toothed and leathery leaves. Many hellebore species are poisonous.

The distinctive flowers have five petal-like sepals surrounding a ring of small, cup-like nectaries which are actually modified petals to hold nectar. The sepals do not fall as petals would, but remain on the plant, sometimes for many months.

Hellebores are widely grown in USDA Zone 5 through 8 gardens for decorative purposes. They are particularly valued by gardeners for their winter and early spring flowering period.  The plants are surprisingly frost-resistant and are best grown in groups in wooded or shady borders.

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