According to scientific nomenclature, ‘Helleborus’ is the name of a genus in the plant kingdom. Various species of this genus originated in Europe and Asia. These wild species formed the basis for the many varieties currently cultivated by plant growers.
Kwekerij Verboom has categorised its Helleboris varieties into three main groups:
Niger: These varieties of Helleborus niger produce ‘white roses’ before and after Christmas depending on the variety. Although they are often called ‘Christmas roses’, some of them do not start blooming until after Christmas. Kwekerij Verboom has H. niger varieties available for use indoors and outdoors.
Nigercors varieties: These plants flower from January to March. Nigercors varieties are sturdy perennial garden plants that are available in a range of foliage and flower colours.
Lenten RoseThese hybrids of Helleborus Niger and Helleborus orientalis produce flowers in a range of colours very early in the spring when winter is scarcely over.
The Helleborus prefers a location shaded by other plants and should be planted in garden soil which is rich in humus and lime. The flowers and leaves are acaulescent meaning that the stems on which they are carried emerge directly from the roots.
Did you know that the Helleborus has a special way of protecting itself from frost? During below-freezing periods, the plant withdraws moisture from its flowers and this keeps them from freezing. This moisture is stored in the roots and released again to the flowers when temperatures rise.
In the wild, Helleborus niger grows on slopes in the Alps where it thrives on the calcareous soil. Long ago, monks and nobles who visited the Alps took these plants home with them as souvenirs and planted them in monastery or castle gardens. This is how the Helleborus became distributed throughout Europe.
During the Middle Ages, herbalists made use of the Christmas rose’s medicinal properties. Later, it was declared sacred for the reason that it flowered around the time of Christ’s birth.
Common English names for the Helleborus are Christmas rose or Black hellebore (H. niger) because these varieties flower at Christmas and have dark rootstocks, and Lenten rose (H. orientalis) because these varieties flower during the Lenten season. The origins of the scientific name stem from the Greek words elein, which means 'to injure' and bora which means 'food', thus indicating the plant's poisonous nature.
The "Helleborus" is the Latin name.
In other countries the Helleborus also named:
- ZWEEDS: Julros, Vit julros, Svart prustrot.
- NOORS: Christmas rose, white Christmas rose, black nyserod
- Engels: Christmas Rose, White Christmas Rose, Christmas Rose, Black Hellebore, Kristurt, Sneeze Powder, Juleurt.
- FINS: Light Christmas Rose.
- ENGELS: Black Hellebore, Christmas Rose, Christe Herbe, Melampode.
- ENGELS: Black hellebore. Christmas Rose, Alrschen, Brenfuss, white frost, fire herb, Lenten roses, snow rose, evil weed, Christmas Rose, wolf tooth, Wrangblume.
- FRANS: Elle Drilling noir, hellebore noire, Rose-de-Nol.
- SPANISH: Elboro negro
- ENGELS: Pink Christmas
- RUSSIAN: Gelleborus, Hellebore, Christmas star, Rose Christ.
According to legend when Christ was born, all the plants woke up from their winter sleep and then went back to sleep. All but the Christmas rose. It forgot to go back to sleep and flowered amid the snow and ice. Ever since then, the Christmas rose’s pure white flowers have appeared every year to announce the birth of Christ, as referred to in a Dutch hymn’:
That flower of miraculous beauty
Of which Isaiah spoke
Flowered when light
Appeared in the darkness
Another legend tells of Madelon, a poor shepherdess on her way to Bethlehem. Because she had no gift and since no flowers were in bloom, she burst into tears. Then a miracle occurred. On the spot where her tears fell to the ground, flowers as pure as roses appeared. Madelon picked the “Christ roses’ and made a bouquet of them for the Christ child.