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GENUS: Helleborus

Helleborus viridis L.Green hellebore; winter-aconite

Helleborus niger L.Christmas rose

FAMILY: Ranunculaceae—the Buttercup Family (see Actaea)

PHENOLOGY: The hellebores are late winter to early spring flowering plants.

DISTRIBUTION: Helleborus viridis is a European species that is established in some areas. Helleborus niger is a durable, cold-hardy, evergreen, ornamental plant cultivated in gardens. Both thrive in partially shaded, moist situations in good soil.

PLANT CHARACTERISTICS: The genus Helleborus is recognized by showy flowers of white, green, or purple; sepals: 5, large, petaloid; petals: none; stamens: numerous, the outer 8-10 modified into staminodes; pistils: usually 3 or 4; style: erect, slender; fruit: a follicle; leaves: alternate, palmately cleft.

POISONOUS PARTS: The entire plant is toxic.

SYMPTOMS: Helleborus poisoning includes vomiting, diarrhea, and nervous system disturbances such as delirium, convulsions, and death due to respiratory collapse.

POISONOUS PRINCIPLES: Cardiac glycosides are responsible for poisonings. Hellebrin is a cardiac stimulant found in these plants.

CONFUSED TAXA: Helleborus niger the evergreen, cold-resistant plant, produces a floral stalk but no true leafy stems. The flowers, usually borne singly on red-spotted peduncles, are white (suffused with pink). Helleborus viridis produces an erect stem with 2-4 drooping green flowers.

SPECIES OF ANIMALS AFFECTED: Both animals and humans are affected by this poisonous plant. When eaten, the hellebores are said to have a "burning taste."

TREATMENT: (11a)(b); (26).

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