Helleborus vesicarius

Helleborus vesicarius, Aucher (1841)

This Helleborus species populates rocky, debris-covered slopes in the very hot and dry coastal regions of northern Syria and southern Turkey. It has been found at altitudes of 550 to 1,500 metres and in clearances in dry woodland on loamy soil. Helleborus vesicarius goes through a Mediterranean growth cycle with the main growing period in the autumn and winter and a dormant season in the dry and hot summer.

This species looks similar to Helleborus foetidus. Its numerous light green leaves are also divided into three leaflets.

The small number of little bell-shaped flowers are green in colour, sometimes tinged red, purple or brownish along the edge. After flowering from February till March, the plant dies back in May and June. The follicles of Helleborus versicarius develop in a different way than other hellebore species in adjustment to the species' habitat. Each ovary develops into a globular puffy shape with a dry skin. The ovaries break from the flower stems completely once the seeds have matured and are distributed by the wind.

The plants' strong fleshy roots serve as a storage during the unfavourable growing conditions that prevail in the summer. They grow deeply into the heavy, humus-rich soil to utilise the little moisture there is.

The development of Helleborus vesicarius seedlings is also special. In the initial crop cycle, only the seed leaves (= cotyledons) can be seen. The primary shoot (= plumule) remains in the soil as it grows larger. During dormancy in the summer, the seed leaves above ground-level die; the primary leaves develop later from the plumule in the moist conditions of autumn. In general, Helleborus versicarius seedlings take four to six years from seed to flower.

During the main growth period in the autumn and winter, the plants should be sheltered from frost and kept as dry as possible. The cycle can best be maintained by growing in pots. The plant should be overwintered in a frost-free spot and moved to a sunny location in the garden in the summer.