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Helleborus_foetidus - L.

Common Name Stinking Hellebore, Setterwort, Bear's Foot, Bearsfoot, Setterwort, Stinkwort, Stinking Hellebore
Family Ranunculaceae
USDA hardiness 6-9
Known Hazards All parts of the plant are poisonous[9, 10, 65], this poison can possibly be absorbed through the skin[76].
Habitats Woods, scrub and sunny banks on moist chalk and limestone soils[9, 17, 187].
Range Western and southern Europe, including Britain, from Belgium to Spain and Italy.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade
Helleborus_foetidus Stinking Hellebore, Setterwort, Bear


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Helleborus_foetidus Stinking Hellebore, Setterwort, Bear
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Summary

Bloom Color: Green. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late winter, Mid winter. Form: Upright or erect.


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Helleborus_foetidus is an evergreen Perennial growing to 0.8 m (2ft 7in) by 0.3 m (1ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from February to April, and the seeds ripen from May to June. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, flies.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers moist soil.

Synonyms

Habitats

Edible Uses

None known

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.



A very toxic plant that is considered to be useful for reducing blood pressure in various conditions of hypertension[213]. Tthe root contains the alkaloids nervine, pseudo-nervine and veratridine[213]. It is best to harvest the root in the autumn and dry it for later use[213]. This species has similar medicinal properties to the black hellebore, H. niger[4]. These properties are:- Black hellebore is a very poisonous plant that is toxic when taken in all but the smallest doses. As such it should not be taken except under professional supervision. The plant contains cardiac glycosides which have a similar action to the foxglove (Digitalis spp) and it has been used as a heart stimulant for the elderly, though this treatment is no longer recommended[254]. The root is anthelmintic, cardiac, cathartic, diuretic, emetic, emmenagogue, irritant, violently narcotic and a drastic purgative[4, 9, 21, 46, 240]. It is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use[4]. It has been used in the treatment of dropsy, amenorrhoea, nervous disorders and hysteria, but it is very poisonous and great care must be taken over the dosage[4]. The root is also applied externally as a local irritant[4], but even this should be done with care, see notes above on toxicity. A homeopathic remedy is made from the roots[9]. It is used in the treatment of headaches, psychic disorders, enteritis and spasms[9].

Other Uses

A decoction of the roots is used as a parasiticide against body lice, fleas etc[76, 213]. This use is somewhat dangerous, see the notes above on toxicity.

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Container, Massing, Rock garden, Woodland garden. Succeeds in any good garden soil[1], preferring a moist well-drained rich loam in a sheltered position in partial shade[1, 4, 31, 111]. Plants are suitable for naturalizing in a woodland garden[200] and also succeed in the shade of a north-facing wall[233]. They do not object to lime[1]. Grow well in heavy clay soils[200]. Dislikes drought. The stems live for one or two years, dying after flowering[200]. Slugs are very fond of this plant and it will probably require some protection from them[187]. The various species in this genus hybridize freely[95]. There are some named forms, selected for their ornamental value[200]. The whole plant, especially when bruised, gives off an unpleasant smell that is similar to decaying meat[245]. Plants resent root disturbance and should be placed in their permanent positions whilst still small[200]. A greedy plant, inhibiting the growth of nearby plants, especially legumes[54]. Special Features: Attractive foliage, Not North American native, Naturalizing, All or parts of this plant are poisonous, Suitable for cut flowers, Flowers have an unpleasant odor.

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Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[1, 134]. Sow stored seed as early in the year as possible[1], it usually germinates in the autumn to spring. Seed can take 18 months to germinate. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. This species produces flowering plants in 2 - 3 years from seed[200]. It is not possible to divide this species, but it is possible to take basal cuttings of young vegetative shoots[200]. Harvest the shoots when they are about 10cm long with plenty of underground stem. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Helleborus foetidusStinking Hellebore, Setterwort, Bear's Foot, Bearsfoot, Setterwort, Stinkwort, Stinking Hellebore02

 

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Expert comment

Author

L.

Botanical References

17200

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

Joseph Woodard   Tue Jul 18 2006

The Genus Helleborus

Tanya   Thu Feb 28 2008

Thanks that was very usefull and interesting. I walk in Abruzzo Italy, and now am better informed of the interest and danger of this plant. Thank you - Tanya abruzzowalks.com

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