Helleborus, also known as Hellebore, is a genus of about 20 species of perennial herbs in the family Ranunculaceae, native to Europe and Asia.
The plant produces individual flowers consisted of 5 sepals and cup-shaped nectaries. What we call flowers are actually sepals that enclose the petals and protect the true flowers, which are actually at the center of the sepals, consisting of a cluster of stamens and small and insignificant petals. The sepals are showy and come in a wide range of colors including purple, pink, green, yellow, white and black.
The genus name was derived from the Greek word “elein” (“to injure”) and “bora” (“food”), referring to the poisonous nature of this plant.
The common name “Christmas Rose” comes from the fact the flowers resemble a small single rose. The plant belongs to the Ranunculaceae family and it is not a rose at all.
Hellebore symbolizes serenity, tranquility and peace.
On the other hand, it can represent a scandal or anxiety.
Interesting facts about Helleborus:
Hellebore flowers don’t consist of petals, but of sepals. The true flowers are at the center of the sepals, consisting of a cluster of stamens and small petals.
After the plant has bloomed, the sepals remain alive as long as the plant lives.
Is Hellebore Poisonous?
Most species are poisonous, or at least mildly toxic. Ingestion of sufficient quantities will often lead to salivation, abdominal cramping, diarrhea and can even cause death.
Some historians believe that Alexander the Great died from Hellebore poisoning while being treated for an illness.
Benefits and Uses
Hellebore was widely used as a herbal remedy in the past.
According to Greek mythology, the daughters of the King of Argos suffered from a form of madness that caused them to run naked, crying and mooing like cows through the city streets. As time passed, their madness increased and even spread to other women in the area. Melampus of Pylos, a legendary soothsayer and healer, used Hellebore to save the daughters from a madness. A remedy made of Hellebore cured them.
In the Middle Ages, witches used this plant for the awakening of demons, while others planted it beside their doors to keep evil spirits away.
The flowers come in various colors, from purple to pink, green, yellow, white and even black.
They range in size from 30 cm (1 ft) to 1,2 metres (4 ft) tall.
These plants prefer rich, moist and well-drained soil. They are tolerant of most soil types, but avoid planting them in dry or waterlogged soil.