Monday, 14 December 2015

Stinking Hellebore


What better way to forget about all this 'winter' dullness than to go looking for a few plants! Yes, even in the harshest of winters (although this isn't one) some species do their thing throughout the season. One of my favourites just happens to have a few sites close to home.

Stinking Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) is a wild species, occurring on shallow calcareous soils in a snaking band running from the south-east of England, through central southern England and into mid-to-north Wales. It is found widely elsewhere, but most of these come from garden throw-outs and escapes. It is a fecund plant, setting seed and spreading with ease - I have it in my garden and find it springing up all over the place. Its appearance in the garden is a bit of a mystery - we had lived here for quite a few years and not seen it, until one popped up and spread. It is quite possible that this was a wild plant, as it is present only a mile away (on Epsom Downs).

This afternoon I visited Park Downs with the sole aim of visiting a population that is found at the edge of a copse on the upper slopes. 20-30 plants are present (above), and a fine sight they were too, all fresh greens shining out in the gloom. The flowers were not fully out (below, and not to be expected yet), plus there were a few maturing 'seedlings' nearby. The bottom photo was taken this spring to show the open flower that exhibits a wine-red rim.



The light was quickly leaking away from the day, adding even more gloom to the gloom, but seeing the Hellebores had lifted my day. I looked across the open slope and saw that sheep had been introduced into a large enclosure. These were munching away at the sward, helping to turn this chalk downland into even more pristine chalk downland. They, and the conservators, are doing a fine job. Come and visit next summer, when the butterfly population will provide ample spectacle, along with a stunning flora. And this is all within a twenty minute walk from my front door.


Just as I was about to head home I noticed a lone Hellebore, away from the others, on the edge of a small copse. This was a little more advanced than the others, and stood prouder.

7 comments:

  1. Stinking Hellebore not only has a first name to be proud of but a great Latin name - foetidus. Imagine having that as a surname - Mr. Foetidus, I know several people that could justify that name.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Some lovely looking Phytomyza hellebori mines in there too, I see :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Steve, I've probably made that impression on some people without the need for a name change.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Steve, I suspect that this population is a result of someone sowing seed. For about five years there were only a couple of plants by the side of the path but now they are spreading quickly. Nice to have anyway!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's interesting John. In my garden they spread like wildfire - I'm forever digging them up, potting them and passing them on to anybody that wants them!

      Delete