Photo: Clearly Ambiguous
The genus Helleborus includes plants that are commonly called “Christmas rose” and “Lenten rose”. The species that blooms in lent is “Helleborus Orientalis.”
It has unusual colors for a flower, green, plum and greenish or pinkish white with many possible markings and combinations of these shades on the flowers.
The plant is 12 to 18 inches tall. The leaves are coarse and toothed, divided into 7 to 9 leaflets. It is evergreen, but after a harsh winter looks bedraggled because the leaves are winter scorched and brown. If you cut off the messy looking parts, the plant will look better and show off the flowers when they emerge.
The Lenten rose is not really a rose at all, but it’s flower shape reminds us of a single petaled rose with a tuft of dense short stamens in the center. The flowers change color as they age and last a long time on the plant. The genus name “Helleborus” is from the Greek word “helein” — “to kill”. This is because the roots are poisonous.
For many centuries the plant was thought to have medicinal uses and was sometimes used to treat those with emotional disorders. John Gerard, writing in 1597 noted that it was a good treatment for mad and furious men. There are many stories and legends about its magic and purifying power. Because the colors of the blooms are muted, they look wonderful if floated in water in a shallow bowl of any color.