Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - What's in a name?

Lots of familiar spring flowers are getting their names changed, and sometimes it is very annoying.  And this is one of those cases and it's not just because TPP's brain  has been using some of these names for over 50 years and doesn't change gears as fast as it used to.  One of our earliest of woodland ephemeral perennials is called "liverleaf" because last year's persistent leaves have turned a dark, purple-brown (a color not unlike that of a liver) and they are 3-lobed (like a liver).  To the herbalist this was a sign that this plant could be used for liver ailments (probably not), but the name sort of said it all.  Now de Candolle certainly knew this when he named the plant Hepatica. 
Generally this plant grows on slopes in woodlands.  A member of the buttercup family, the flowers have a variable number of petals like part in a range of say 6-9, with three bracts beneath.  Their color is often white, but they can range to pink and purple.  In out gardens they seem to like be tucked away in little places between the roots of big trees.  The plants tend to be maybe 6-7" across.  Ours took quite some time and repeated starts to get established and now the reward is finding a seedling every now and again.  The first image shows the purplish color form (a seedling) and the second a mature plant in full bloom.
Some people have shifted this species to the genus Anemone. Some people don't think H. acutiloba is not a distinct species. And TPP wishes everyone could make up their minds.  But for now it will remain Hepatica in TPP's memory database.

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