Definitions

Eranthis

Eranthis

Eranthis (Winter aconite) is a genus of eight species of flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family), native to southern Europe and east across Asia to Japan.

They are herbaceous perennial plants growing to 10-15 cm tall. The flowers are yellow (white in E. albiflora and E. pinnatifida), and among the first to appear in spring, as early as January in mild climates, though later where winter snowpack persists; they are frost-tolerant and readily survive fresh snow cover unharmed. The leaves only expand fully when the flowers are nearly finished; they are peltate, 5-8 cm diameter, with several notches, and only last for 2-3 months before dying down during the late spring.

The genus exhibits aestivation, growing on forest floors and using the sunshine available below the canopy of deciduous trees before the leaves come out; the leaves die off when the shade from tree canopies becomes dense, or, in dry areas, when summer drought reduces water availability.

They are popular ornamental plants grown for their winter or early spring flowering. E. hyemalis is widely naturalised in northern Europe and North America.

Propagate by lifting the tubers as the plants begin to die down, cutting or breaking them into separate sections and replanting these at once.

All parts of the plants are poisonous, though the very acrid taste makes poisoning a low risk.

In Greek and Roman mythology, Medea tried to kill Theseus by poisoning him by putting aconite in his wine, thought to be the saliva of Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guarded the Underworld. Hercules dragged Cerberus up from the Underworld, while the dog turned his face away from the light, barking and depositing saliva along the path. The saliva hardened in the soil and produced its lethal poison in the plants that grew from the soil. Because it was formed and grew on hard stones, farmers called it 'aconite' (from the Greek akone, meaning 'whetstone').Species

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