Common Name of Plant: Hepatica
Scientific Name of Plant: Hepatica acutiloba DA
Average Height of Plant: 4 – 9 inches
Blooming Time: March - May
Ask the Botanist
What are the leaves like?
The leaves are heart-shaped and about 2 inches long. Each leaf has 3 pointed lobes (sections) and sprouts from the ground rather than from a stalk. The leaves feel leathery and have a smooth surface but rougher underside. The leaves turn brown to purple in the fall but remain on the plant. The name “hepatica” comes from a Greek word meaning “liver” because of the liver-like appearance of the leaves.
What type of flowers bloom on this plant? What do the seedpods or seeds look like?
The one-inch flowers are usually white (but can range from pale pink to lavender) with a yellow center. The flowers do not actually have petals. What look like petals are really delicate, colored sepals (parts that cover the flower buds). The flowers sprout directly from the fibrous root and appear before the new leaves. Hepatica is one of the first flowers to appear in spring. The flowers are pollinated by bees, flies, beetles, and butterflies.
What is unusual about the stem or trunk?
The stems are covered with fine fuzzy hairs and sprout directly from thick, fibrous roots. The leaves sprout after the flower stalks are up in spring.
How is this plant important to animals? Has it also been used by people?
Bees, flies, beetles, and butterflies pollinate hepatica. In North America, Native Americans used the plant as a tea to soothe coughs and irritated throats. In the 1800’s, people used hepatica as a medicine for liver and kidney problems. The leaves needed to be cooked or dried before using to remove the poison in them.
What location does this plant prefer?
Hepatica needs cold winters and some shade in the summer to protect it from the sun’s rays.
They can survive on rather dry summer sites but prefer less acid soils. They grow in wooded areas with rich soils that are well-drained.