Holy Hellebore

False Hellebore. Indian Poke.  Veratrum viride. Don’t eat this stuff, ok? A basic grasp of Latin and Greek can tell you a lot about the plants you are looking at. “Hellebore” is derived from the Greek words “elein” for injure and “bora” for food. And the feisty French call it tabac du diable… or devil’s tobacco.

It was used by some Native American tribes to pick a new leader….last one to puke is the winner!! I wouldn’t recommend trying that.

Driving down a random road last night I came across an area full of false hellebore.  Without leaves on the trees you can see quite far into the woods these days, and the bright green of the hellebore stretched for as far as I could see!

False Hellebore, Veratrum viride

So, as anyone would do, I immediately pulled over to explore.

You get used to seeing the ‘usual suspects’ growing together in similar environments. False hellebore, trillium, cohosh, dwarf ginseng…..and one little guy who briefly fooled us into thinking he was a Cypripedium.

Meadow Rue or Cohosh,

I have a hard time distinguishing between rue and cohosh. Silly similar leaves.

Trillium cernuum, nodding trillium

Trillium cernuum, or nodding trillium. A good keying factor in IDing this plant is the fact that the leaves attach directly to the stem.

Panex trifolius, dwarf ginseng

The Panex trifolia, or dwarf ginseng, is showing us the beginning of it’s flowers! As they mature, the flowers will eventually stand straight up over the leaves.

Cypripedium ...acule or parviflorum? Or just a false hellebore, really.

As it was dusk, there was not nearly enough time to look around, but we did spy these small leaves that – at the time – looked rather Cypripedium-ish. Looking at them now, though, I think it’s just a not-so-successful hellobore. Eh. Or not. We are just going to have to go back and check later on!

GoBotany species links:
Veratrum viride, American false hellebore
Trillium cernuum, nodding trillium
Panax trifolius, dwarf ginseng


the dirty girl at dirty botany
Head dirty girl at dirtybotany.com!
Bug worshiper.
Slime mold fanatic.
Macrophotographer in training.

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