Helleborus foetidus

Helleborus foetidus

Helleborus foetidus, known variously as Stinking hellebore, Dungwort, or Bear's foot, is a member of the buttercup family Ranunculaceae, native to western Europe, from England south to Portugal, and east to Germany and Italy.


It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to 80 cm tall and 100cm across, with a thick succulent stem and evergreen glossy leaves. Flowering is in spring. The drooping cup-shaped flowers are yellowish-green, often with a purple edge to the five petal-like sepals on strongly upright stems. Foliage is pungent when crushed.

All parts of the plant are poisonous, containing glycosides. Symptoms of intoxication include violent vomiting and delirium.


It is grown in gardens for its handsome evergreen foliage and large numbers green, bell shaped flowers borne in late winter.

The cultivar Green Giant has very bright green flowers and finley divided foliage; Miss Jekyll has fragrant flowers, intensity varying with the time of day; Wester Flisk Group has red tinted leaves and stems and gray-green flowers; the Sierra Nevada Group is dwarf reaching 30cm.

Helleborus foetidus prefers woodland conditions with deep, fertile, moist, humus rich, well drained soil, and dappled shade. The species is, however, drought tolerant. It often occurs naturally on chalk or limestone soils.

Propagations is via division or from seed, which can be prolific, naturalising well in ideal conditions.


External links

  • Helleborus foetidus in Topwalks
  • Flora, The Gardener's Bible, ABC books, Ultimo, NSW, Australia, 2006
  • Th Ultimate Plant Book, Bryant & Rodd et al, CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Vic, Australia, 2005

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