In spite of the rain, snow and frost the brave little flowers of Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis
) can be found in the orchard grass of the Physic Garden providing a flash of yellow.
It is a species of flowering plant in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae, native to woodland habitats in Europe. It is a tuberous rooted herbaceous perennial growing to 15 cm (6 in), with large (2–3 cm (1–1 in)), yellow, cup-shaped flowers held above a collar of 3 leaf-like bracts, appearing in late winter and early spring. The six sepals are bright yellow and petaloid and the petals are in the form of tubular nectaries. There are numerous stamens and usually six unfused carpels. The fruit are follicles each containing several seeds.
It is commonly known as winter aconite, and is valued in cultivation as one of the earliest of all flowers to appear.The Latin specific epithet hyemalis means "winter-flowering". As a spring ephemeral plant, its life cycle exploits the deciduous woodland canopy, flowering at the time of maximum sunlight reaching the forest floor, then completely dying back to its underground tuber after flowering.
All parts of the plant are poisonous when consumed by humans containing a number of cardiac glycosides.