CHRISTMAS-ROSE

BLACK HELLEBORE

Helleborus niger

Buttercup Family [Ranunculaceae]

month8jan month8feb month8mar month8march month8apr month8april

status
statusZalien
 
flower
flower8bicolour
 
flower
flower8white
 
inner
inner8yellow
 
morph
morph8actino
 
petals
petalsZ5 petalsZ4 petalsZ3
(3-5)
stem
stem8round
 
toxicity
toxicityZmedium
 

24th Feb 2011, Walkden Railway Station, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
With five large white sepals which look like petals and large glossy dark-green leaves.


24th Feb 2011, Walkden Railway Station, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
Some species of Christmas-rose have one large continuous white sepal. Whichever, all are cultivated horticulturally, and if they escape into the wild may only flourish for a short while.


24th Feb 2011, Walkden Railway Station, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
A mass of stamens with anthers bearing yellow pollen crowd the centre. The centre of the sepals may be green, as here. The stem is wrinkled and has green and brown markings.


24th Feb 2011, Walkden Railway Station, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
Most flowers face groundwards, anthers droopin.


24th Feb 2011, Walkden Railway Station, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
This flower has only four petal-like sepals. In the very centre of the bunch of anthers about five purplish things protrude; these are destined to be the nectarines.


24th Feb 2011, Walkden Railway Station, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
A profusion of yellow anthers.


24th Feb 2011, Walkden Railway Station, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
Older flowers become off-white (fawn to pinkish) as the nectarines develop in the very centre, most of the stamens and anthers having dropped off.


27th Feb 2011, Walkden Railway Station, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
The nectarines (dead centre) are ripening. The stamens, which have since fallen off, were attached on the white collar where the 'stubble' now resides.


24th Feb 2011, Walkden Railway Station, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
The outersides of the white sepals may be tinged pinkish purple.


24th Feb 2011, Walkden Railway Station, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
The leaves are large, glossy green with lighter coloured veins.


23rd April 2011, Walkden Railway Station, Gtr M/cr. Photo: © RWD
The number of nectarines (or carpels, which contain the seeds) seems to vary from four to about nine.


No relation to: Rose

In the wild there are two subspecies: 'Christmas-rose': Helleborus niger subsp. macranthus (synonym Helleburus niger major) and Helleborus niger subsp. niger. Neither subspecies is native to the UK.

Cultivars abound: The most common cultivar in the UK is called 'Potters Wheel', first developed from seed in the 1950's, and the above photographs may be of that cultivar. Other cultivars are double-flowered.

Cultivated Hybrids include Helleborus × nigercors (Helleborus niger × Helleborus argutifolius). Several other hybrids between Black Hellebore and other Hellebores exist.

No relation to : White Hellebore [which is now instead called False Hellebore (Veratrum alba which is not a Hellebore but a plant belonging to the Herb-Paris Family (Melanthiaceae)].

Black Hellebore or Christmas-rose as it is more popularly known (since it flowers just after Christmas) is deadly poisonous, but no more so than most other Hellebores. The 'black' in its name refers to the roots, which are black. It is evergreen with large dark-green glossy pedate leaves on long stalks. The leaves are basal.

Black Hellebore has between three to five petal-like white (sometimes tinged pinkish or purplish) sepals. The sepals are rather irregular in outline, sometimes being pointed and yet other times radiused into a curve.

It is more likely to be found in a garden, for Black Hellebore is a cultivated plant. If it escapes into the wild as it sometimes does, it does not persist for more than a few seasons.

Like many members of the Buttercup Family it contains two toxic components: Ranunculin and Protoanemonin, but does not contain the cardiotoxic compounds Helleborin, Hellebrin nor Helleborein that were previously thought to be present. It seems that those who analyzed the chemical composition of Black Hellebore had inadvertently got some Green Hellebore mixed in with their samples! Green Hellebore (Helleborus viridis) does indeed contain these cardiotoxins, but not Black Hellebore.


  Helleborus niger  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Ranunculaceae  

Distribution
 family8Buttercup family8Ranunculaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Helleborus
Helleborus
(Hellebores)

CHRISTMAS-ROSE

BLACK HELLEBORE

Helleborus niger

Buttercup Family [Ranunculaceae]

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