categoryZEvergreen Evergreen List 

WINTER HELIOTROPE

Petasites fragrans

Daisy & Dandelion Family [Asteraceae]

month8apr month8may month8jun month8jul month8aug month8sep month8oct

category
category8Evergreen
 
status
statusZneophyte
 
flower
flower8lilac
 
inner
inner8white
 
morph
morph8actino
 
petals
petalsZ5
 
petals
petalsZmany
 
type
typeZclustered
 
stem
stem8round
 
smell
smell8vanill
vanilla
toxicity
toxicityZlowish
 
sex
sexZdioecious
 

18th Feb 2012, Carlingford Louth, Ireland. Photo: © Dermot Baxter
Grows up to a foot high, being much shorter than Butterbur.


11th Feb 2010, Carlingford Louth, Ireland. Photo: © Dermot Baxter
Starts flowering in November, five months before the similar Butterbur and has far fewer clusters of flowers, each set on a well separated stalk.


Photo: © John Phandaal Law
Growing amidst the leaves of other plants.


18th Feb 2012, Carlingford Louth, Ireland. Photo: © Dermot Baxter
 Flowers are all male (female plants are not known in the British Isles) and pink to lilac in colour with some parts deep purple, others white.


18th Feb 2012, Carlingford Louth, Ireland. Photo: © Dermot Baxter
Each individual flower in the bunch has five lilac petals, and a central deep purple part with extended white protuberance.


11th Feb 2010, Carlingford Louth, Ireland. Photo: © Dermot Baxter
The flowers look similar to the flowers on the male Butterbur.


11th Feb 2010, Carlingford Louth, Ireland. Photo: © Dermot Baxter
The flowers are in more open and far fewer bunches than those of Butterbur.


11th Feb 2010, Carlingford Louth, Ireland. Photo: © Dermot Baxter
But otherwise, the flowers look very similar, being mauve to lilac with white parts. Flower stalks hairy.


Photo: © RWD
Surrounding each bunch of flowers are several reddish-purple paper like bracts that are partly green.


Photo: © RWD
A single flower with five long tapering pink petals and a single central stamen wrapped in a purple covering and with a long white anther protruding.


18th Feb 2012, Carlingford Louth, Ireland. Photo: © Dermot Baxter
The plant readily spreads in the right conditions blanketting the ground.


11th Feb 2010, Carlingford Louth, Ireland. Photo: © Dermot Baxter
The leaves are smaller and rounder than those of Butterbur and also do not grow to such massive proportions.


11th Feb 2010, Carlingford Louth, Ireland. Photo: © Dermot Baxter
The leaves are up to 20cm across with a satin sheen and have fine teeth but are not scalloped at the edges like those of Colt's-foot.


18th Feb 2012, Carlingford Louth, Ireland. Photo: © Dermot Baxter
Leaves are a similar shape (but not size) to those of Garlic Mustard, with a rounded notch, but the teeth are finer. The remnants of a white netted veil are visible.


12th Mar 2012, Carlingford Louth, Ireland. Photo: © Dermot Baxter
A month later and they have set to seed.


12th Mar 2012, Carlingford Louth, Ireland. Photo: © Dermot Baxter


Not relation to : Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) or Winter Jasmine or any of the Hellebores nor Helleborines [plants with similar names]

Not to be semantically confused with :  Heliotrope, a gemstone and variety of  Chalcedony.

Easily mis-identified as : Butterbur but the flower spikes are much shorter and the leaves evergreen and much smaller and more rounded. The flowers themselves are all male and similar in appearance to those of the male plants of Butterbur. Specimens with female flowers do not grow in the UK. Winter Heliotrope starts flowering up to 5 months sooner than Butterbur, in November the year before, and un-like Butterbur, the flowers are fragrant, and, according to various sources, smell of either vanilla or almonds.

Un-like Butterbur where the flowers appear before the leaves, Winter Helitrope has leaves all year round and is evergreen.

Grows almost everywhere, but sparser in Scotland. Habitat is waysides and hedge banks, and is patch forming. Although perennial, it sometimes is without flowers even in Winter, its flowering season. Winter heliotrope is dioecious, having male and female flowers on separate plants.

The flowers follow the sun as that tracks across a winters day, hence the name Heliotrope which is derived from the Greek Helios (ηλιος) meaning sun and tropos (τροπος) meaning 'turn' or 'direction'.

PYRROLIZIDINE ALKALOIDS


Like Butterbur, it contains several poisonous Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids, in particular Senkirkine, Petasinine (not to be confused with a higher molecular weight pyrrolizidine alkaloid Petasitenine nor with the sesquiterpenoid, Petasin, although it does have one of the same angeloyl groups) and 7-Angeloyl-retronecine (aka 7-Angeloyl-Heliotridin). Apart from the double bond in one of the rings of 7-Angeloyl-Retronecine, the two are isomeric with one another.


  Petasites fragrans  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Asteraceae  

Distribution
 family8Daisy & Dandelion family8Asteraceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Petasites
Petasites
(Butterburs)

WINTER HELIOTROPE

Petasites fragrans

Daisy & Dandelion Family [Asteraceae]