The first flowers to bloom around our house each year are the Hellebores (genus Helleborus), commonly called Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose. They are not, however, closely related to roses. Members of this genus are native to Europe, and are found from Great Britain to Turkey. They are popular as ornamentals, because during the winter or very early spring, when they bloom, few other plants are in flower. They are prominent at our house because they are spurned by white-tailed deer, and they do not seem to be troubled by any insects or diseases. Flowers range in color from white to purple, and they prefer some shade.
The “petals” are not really petals; they are modified leaves called “sepals”. The true flowers are tiny. They are clustered in the center of the structure and are surrounded by stamens, which are white in this photograph. The genus name Helleborus is derived from the Greek helein which means injures or destroys and bora which means food. The names refers to the fact that the leaves and roots are both toxic.