Helleborus thibetanus

Helleborus thibetanus, Franchet (1885)

Chinese hellebore

Helleborus thibetanus comes from China, more specifically from the rain forests in the provinces of Gansu, Shaanxi, Hubei and Sichuan, where it can be found at altitudes of 1,100 to 3,700 metres. This means that geographically speaking, this species if fully isolated from any other Helleborus species.

The soft leaves of this caulescent species are divided into eight to ten serrate leaflets. It is vulnerable to late frosts, because is develops fast in spring, although it is a fairly slow grower. Damaged flower stems can collapse and die completely.

This Helleborus species can reach between 30 cm and 50 cm in height. Leaf growth is virtually non-existent during the flowering season.

The flowers are 4-6 cm in diameter. They can be a cream to rose colour, frequently with deep pink veins, and often turn pink as they fade. During its flowering season from early March to early April, Helleborus thibetanus is an eye-catching sight because each stem carries up to seven blooms that all open at the same time. After flowering, the plants die down completely to pass through summer dormancy.

The seedlings of Helleborus thibetanus are very special in that the cotyledons (seed leaves) remain below ground during the germination phase (hypogeal germination). The leaves that actually emerge from the ground are the first true leaves, which are also called primary leaves.