Bit of a stink

I was told of a site for Stinking Hellebore last week. Not the best name in the world is it? It does have others; Dungwort, or Bears’ Foot, but gets its commonest name from the pungent smell when the foliage is crushed.

The plants occupy lime rich soil which is not often at the surface in Norfolk. It takes a cutting, cliff or escarpment to expose the underlying chalk. This site is therefore the only place (as far as I’m aware) where this plant occurs in the north of the county.

This early Hellebore is heaven sent for the early bees. It has yeast that lives within the plant and it’s the resporation of the yeast that raises the temperature of the flower just a little above its ambient surroundings. The slight heat generated helps to disperse the flowers scent to attract the few insects around in early spring. What an intricate reliance.

Of course being early flowering if you are one of only a few plants obvious on the forest floor you have to have some built in protection and every part of the plant is quite poisonous despite having quite beautiful green bell shaped flowers edged with purple.

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Mar 2012


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