#AdventBotany Day 11 brings the Christmas rose (Helleborus niger). This handsome herbaceous perennial is native to the Balkans but widely planted in gardens in Britain for its large white flowers in mid-winter. In fact it can already be seen flowering in some gardens this year – enough to justify the common name “Christmas Rose” (although it is in the family Ranunculaceae and nowhere near Rosaceae!).
However the plant sometimes does not live up to it’s common name and in some years the Christmas Rose flowers even later than the Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis).
Furthermore, being in the family Ranunculaceae, the flowers are not always exactly what they seem! And so what appears at first sight to be white petals are in fact persistent sepals (technically tepals, since there are no distinct sepals and petals).
The scientific name Helleborus comes from the Greek “elein” meaning to injure and “bora” meaning food and many species are poisonous.
Check out the species and numerous hybrids and varieties at the National Collection of Helleborus here.