With Christmas at only a few weeks away, the perfect choice for our Flower of the Month December is without a doubt, the Christmas Rose. This lovely little flower is also known by its botanical name ‘Helleborus’ – a true hit in every Christmas arrangement or bouquet.
The Helleborus (pronounced “hel-leh-BORE-us”) is a member of the Ranunculaceae family and has a lot of species, hybrids and cultivars. The most popular ones are the Helleborus Orientalis and Helleborus Niger. The colour of this flower can vary from white and cream, to purple and green. The Helleborus Niger – with its white bowl-shaped flowers – is better known as the Christmas Rose. The flowers are about 3 inches across, adorned with crowns of showy golden-yellow stamens and typically nodding or facing outwards.
The Helleborus Niger supposedly got its name from the Greek words bora, meaning food, and helein, meaning injures/destroys in reference to the plant’s toxic leaves, stems and roots which are poisonous to humans if ingested. Niger, the Latin word for black, refers to the black colour of its roots.
You will find this flower growing on the mountains of southern and central Europe. The Christmas Rose opens up around Christmas time (hence the name Christmas rose) in the more warmer winter regions, while it opens up in early spring in the colder regions.
The Helleborus is one of the only plants that blooms naturally in the winter and in early spring. For this reason, people thought the plants had magical powers. When blooms appeared before Christmas, it was believed that they presaged a bountiful year ahead.
But why is it called Christmas Rose? An ancient story tells that all Helleborus plants woke up from their hibernation when Jesus was born. The Christmas rose forgot to get back to sleep and ever since the plant blooms every year to announce the winter.
Another version of how the Helleborus got its name tells us that it comes from the word ‘elleborum’, which means luck or healing. In former times, the poisonous flower root was used for medical ointments.
Like we said in the introduction, the Helleborus is a must-have in Christmas arrangements or bouquets. The white flower of the Christmas Rose is nice in contrast to – for instance – the bright red colour of Rosehip. Helleborus can also be dried. To do so, hang them upside down in small bunches in a cool, airy place. You can also use silica gel or a similar desiccant.