Be on the lookout for winter-blooming hellebore species. This typically low-growing, herbaceous perrenial sports showy, petal-like bracts that can persist well into the spring–much longer than its small flowers. Their color spectrum includes greens, creams, and even flushes of red and purple. The foliage is extremely frost-hardy and variable in its generally slender shape and verdance.

Hellebore (Helleborus spp.) also has a lengthy history in folklore. Known alternately as “witch weed” and “Christ rose”, toxic hellebore (active alkaloid: helleborin) has been used in folk healing as well as poison-making. Its frost-resistance and winter blooms were thought to be evidence of magical constitution. Hellebore tinctures were also used as a treatment for “winter melancholy” for this very reason–an original treatment for what we’ve developed as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Ingesting helleborin causes diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea–it was never used as a purgurative for the weak, even in antiquity.

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