Winter Aconite

Picture 2391 One of the earliest plants to come up in the spring, even pushing through snow, is Eranthis hyemalis, or Winter Aconite. I look forward every year to see when they will come up. A plant that helps to mark time on the calendar from year to year, indicating just what kind of spring we’ve had in the past. A native to the open woodlands of Europe, this very tough little plant by virtue of its native haunts, prefers a fertile well-drained soil, and at least a half day of sun. It can and will tolerate a wide range of soils and when happy will spread by seed to form a colony over time. Some have said that it can be invasive, but considering that it is such a short plant(under 6″) and essentially an ephemeral that disappears shortly after seeding, I can’t see that one would consider it to be invasive. Besides, any plant that is so early and determined to bloom in some of our harshest spring weather, very warm to near zero and below, should have a place in the garden. The name Winter Aconite seems to have come from the fact that the leaves resemble some members of the Aconitum family when it is actually a member of the buttercup family. It was common, before more modern taxonomy, to name and group plants by their similarity to one another. Its latin name, Eranthis hyemalis derives from ‘er’ for spring, ‘anthis’ for flower, and ‘hyemalis’ from hyems for winter. There are conflicting thoughts as to how poisonous Winter Aconite may be, some may possibly be based on its common name ‘aconite'(wolfbanes), and they are poisonous, but our rule is to never eat any plant unless 100% sure beforehand. Like most of the spring flowers, we should take the time to appreciate them, as they can be fleeting, depending on the weather. As we warm up here in the north, daily checks are made in the garden, carefully watching for new emerging plants. Such fun!

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