One of the harbingers of spring, the delicate and not so familiar hepatica is a wonderful addition to the woodland garden. It naturally grows in the forest, but will adjust nicely to any shady area with rich moist humus. It comes in blue, white and pink and it is one of the earliest blooming flowers, out there with the crocuses and the snow drops.
If it finds a good location it will happily spread and create clumps of pretty flowers with bright yellow stamens. The petals are not really petals, but modified sepals. Flowers appear on green hairy stems with a basal rosette of heart shaped leaves.
Some varieties’ purplish-pink leaves vague resemblance to liver explains the name of the plant, although in the old days it was also used medicinally for affections of this organ. It is poisonous ingested in large quantities and it is not a liver tonic after all, but a mild diuretic and soothing for slow healing wounds. Don’t try this at home, there are well tested and safe ways to deal with these afflictions that don’t run the risk of poisoning or allergic reactions.
It is a beautiful plant, slightly scented, and it blooms very early in the shade or in full sun, that should be enough.