Hybridizes with (or is the hybrid of): some other Hellebores.
No relation to:
Uniquely identifiable characteristics
Distinguishing Feature : A large 5-petalled beetroot-coloured flower drooping earthwards
No relation to :
Roses. Despite the name of a few Hellebores including Christmas-Rose, they do not belong to the Rosaceae family. However, they do have large rose-like flowers, and what look like five petals (which are actually sepals).
Like most members of the Buttercup Family to which it belongs, it contains Ranunculin which, upon hydrolysis outside the plant cell, is converted to Protoanemonin which is poisonous. Lenten-rose is toxic if eaten in large quantities.
This plant, like Helleborus Foetidus, Helleborus Lividus, Helleborus Vesicarius, Helleborus Dumetorium and Helleborus Purpurescens (only some of which are native to the U.K.) contains
bufadienolides (the main one being Hellebrin, aka Helleborin) saponins, and alkaloids such as
Sprintilline. These latter two alkaloids have similar toxicity properties to Aconitine and
Veratrine but so far their structure is unknown.
The maroon flowers as shown above are horticultural hybrids, where many shades of Hellebore can be produced. The real colour of the pure Helleborus orientalis is pale green/cream.
HELLEBRIN & ITS AGLYCONE
Hellebrin is a poisonous triterpene saponin and a cardiac glycoside that is contained in many plants of Genus Hellebore but certainly not all. It is Hellebrigenin 3-O-glucosylrhamnoside.
Hellebrigenine is Hellebrin without the glucoside chain, and is a bufadienolide, in particular 3,6,14-trihydroxy-19-oxobufa-20,22-dienolide. As such it is extremely toxic, being a heart poison.