Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A rose for Lent?

At the nature center, there’s a hillside on the original Ijams’ home site that is covered with an escapee. It’s an early-blooming perennial with long-lasting burgundy, pink or yellow flowers. Probably planted originally by Alice Ijams, who lived at the location from 1910 to 1964, the plant is known as Lenten rose because it blooms in winter between Christmas and Lent. On a gray winter’s day, it would have been a cheery sight to Alice. It still is today. Not native to North America, the shade-loving perennial with deeply lobed leaves is an invited guest from the Old Country. Although the flower resembles a wild rose, it’s actually a hellebore. The genus in the buttercup family is native to much of Europe from western Great Britain east into Romania and Ukraine. From the mountains of the Ukraine to the mountains of East Tennessee, that's a long way to travel for something that doesn't have any legs or feet. Perhaps it had help.

19th century illustration

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