A highly prized evergreen perennial that blooms anywhere from December to April, depending on species, is the Helleborus. Though not native, this plant is quite at home here in the Ozarks. Our Helleborus x hybridus ‘Sunshine Selections’ blooms from February through April in an array of colors from white to green to burgundy…. and is non-aggressive! This plant will readily colonize and at times need to be divided.
Crystal Bridges’ Horticulturist, Cody George, and I split our Hellebore grouping at the top of East Terrace earlier this fall. This is where I’d like to share a word of caution. Shortly following the division, my forearms that were exposed during the transplant broke out in a rash…hmm. I inquired if Cody knew of any toxicity within the plant. He didn’t, and so we assumed I held a sensitivity to hellebore and simply tried to forget about it. Later that evening, I decided to do some Googling. Lo and behold, this website caught my eye, “Hellebore: The Deadly Flower that Sprang From Tears.” Instantly I jumped to conclusions and decided Cody was trying to kill me! After reading the article I was subdued to find out that the hellebore is only deadly if ingested.
Let me share with you the stirring history of this fabulous perennial.
323 BC- Hundreds of years later, in ancient Greece and Rome, numerous accounts state the white hellebore leaves were intensely studied by Aristotle, Plato, and Hippocrates. During this era, the plant was used for a range of psychological disorders ranging from insanity, demonic possession, epilepsy, and melancholy, to dizziness. The plant was only to be administered by a trusted physician. It is suggested Alexander the Great, the “King of Kings” who passed during his prime in 323 BC, was dosed with a lethal amount of hellebore leaves which were snuck into the castle under a mule’s hoof by Alexander’s trusted cup-bearer. Twelve days later, he too was dead.
Traditional uses: The Hellebore has been said to open doors to other worlds! Native Americans would crush the leaves and create a blend cut with tobacco and bearberry to smoke during ceremonies. The Europeans went a step further, concocting a snuff from the crushed roots, which they called “Mountain Snow.” After centuries of natural and/or intentional cross-breeding, the plant’s composition has been corrupted. There’s no telling if the same chemicals are present within the hellebore today as were there hundreds of years ago, or at what concentrations. Nevertheless, this is a plant not to be trifled with! Just to emphasize that fact, let me share three of the chemicals known to exist within the white hellebore:
So if you seek to connect with other universes, leave “Mountain Snow” in the history books! Sincerely, Sam