Thursday, January 20, 2011

False Hellebore

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Already 8:30 AM and things seem to be moving slowly in contrast to how long today's list is. Very cold weather is approaching and there are certain things I want to get out of the way. It's up to 9.1° now and windless, as light snowflakes float through a slow-to-rise sun. The feeders are packed with about 50 American Goldfinches sporting dull winter feathers but flying in wavy, up-down patterns and cleaning out the thistle and other fine seeds from the feeders. Later on in winter the males begin to change to bright yellow, hence the name by some of "Wild Canary".

I have been working on our website again and am spending a lot of time on images. For several years I prepared annual picture tours I called Virtual Tours and people loved them. When I began the move to the new nursery location, a number of things took a back burner. Here it is 2011 and the last Virtual Tour is from 2008. I have been reminded that the "new nursery" isn't "new" anymore and the virtual tour is outdated. I don't receive these comments as criticism but as "encouragement" to please our readers.

Along the way this morning I opened a folder I had labeled as "skunk". As I clicked on it I thought maybe I had filed pictures of the skunks that plagued me last June until they were flattened on Route 2. For some reason a Mr and and Mrs Skunk dug into the bank along Route 2 and had a family of four. They seemed enamored with Japanese beetle grubs in the lower field and spent time digging and eating with no respect for when customers arrived. It's really difficult to sell flowers when you remind people to "walk the gardens, enjoy the flowers and watch for the skunks".

The folder did not contain any animal skunks but instead pictures of what I grew up calling "skunk cabbage" which it wasn't. Various adults taught me the name when in fact I was looking at False Hellebore. It was only in recent years that I learned that Skunk Cabbage, Symplocarpus
foetidus, is not that easy to find in Vermont and grows in observable numbers right behind our old apartment in Shelburne along Lewis Creek not 300 yards from Lake Champlain. One of the stories I had learned about the real skunk cabbage was that it was the first "green" that bears ate in the spring when coming out of hibernation and needing to purge their systems. Part of that annual chronology is misleading as bears exit hibernation before lots of things are turning green. The important point is that if bears ate False Hellebore instead, they would probably be real sick or dead because it's seriously poisonous. Here is a Wiki link to explain.

Aside from right plant, wrong plant, dead skunk or live bear, false hellebore is a neat plant to photograph and observe. It grows quickly and by August has whithered and is gone until the following spring. I planted a bunch around a little bog garden I made at the house and for the period of time it was prime, people always wanted to purchase some. For me it has become another plant I would place with care, especially if there are kids around. In the meantime, maybe you have learned another lesson.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where poets would enjoy writing about what they see from my window.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
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3 comments:

Barry said...

George:
Veratrum is one of my favourite plants! It's pleated foliage is merit alone for growing it, but when it actually flowers...... mine was a flower spike of deep purple flowers.... oddly not at all reminiscent of Helleborus. My problem here are the damnable slugs who will devour a plant in the blink of the eye! Puts one to mind of our beloved Hostas! Hope life on the mountain is treating you and yours well

PlantPostings said...

George: I had not heard of False Hellebore before reading your post. The Wiki link notes that it's native to eastern, but not central, N.A. Maybe that's why. Lovely photo -- the foliage is amazing! Beth

Rebecca said...

I agree, interesting foliage. Great post-thanks for the info!