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Helleborus foetidus (Bear's Foot, Dungwort) January

The stinking Hellebore - Helleborus foetidus - is not really as bad as it is made out to be - in its name at least.

It only stinks, when it is crushed. As with all Hellebores, the sap can be a skin irritant, so just don't crush it! Actually - and I do get quite near to these plants when I photograph them - I find the scent of the flowers quite pleasant!

 Helleborus foetidus is a good perennial plant for early colour in almost any part of the garden, and has the added advantage of being an evergreen perennial, so has foliage year round.

The foliage consists of a basal clump of palmate divided leaves -  not particularly spectacular, but at least it is green in the winter months.

The stinking Hellebore - Helleborus foetidus - is not really as bad as it is made out to be - in its name at least.

Helleborus foetidus - Stinking Hellebore!  It only stinks, when it is crushed. As with all Hellebores, the sap can be a skin irritant, so just don't crush it! Actually - and I do get quite near to these plants when I photograph them - I find the scent of the flowers quite pleasant!

 Helleborus foetidus is a good perennial plant for early colour in almost any part of the garden, and has the added advantage of being an evergreen perennial, so has foliage year round. The foliage consists of a basal clump of palmate divided leaves -  not particularly spectacular, but at least it is green in the winter months.

Dungwort is happy in virtually any garden soil, other than very acid. I have seen it, and photographed it growing well in a range of garden situations – including dappled shade in a woodland garden and in the middle of a sunny herbaceous border – very obliging.  



Flowering Details of Helleborus foetidus

The flowers are pale green in tight bud, and also when the fully open in early spring. They are slightly pendant – forming drooping wide bell-like clusters of flowers. (Not similar to the open flowers of the Oriental Hellebore or Christmas Rose.)

The flower spikes will grow to 80cm tall, and the plant overall will spread to about 40cm wide.

Helleborus foetidus should flower for most of January, February and into early March. The image above was taken early January, whilst the flower buds were just opening.

As with all of the Hellebore family, the sap can cause irritation of the skin, and all parts can cause severe stomach problems if eaten.

Propagation of Helleborus foetidus

These Hellebores must be raised from seed. Division which is so often used in propagating perennials would probably kill the plant.

Problems with Dungwort

This Dungwort is one of the less troublesome of the Hellebores, but it can suffer from slug and snail damage in early spring on account of the fact that new shoots and foliage appear early in the year.

Aphids are sometimes a problem, but if the plant is grown as an isolated subject, aphids will probably find something else to suck sap from.

A few of the older leaves may fade in late summer, and can be cut carefully from the plant after they die back. It is not a good idea to cut into good health foliage.






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