Content Detail

The dark purplish-green compound leaves of bear’s foot hellebore are evergreen to semi-evergreen. The nodding, clustered, cuplike flowers are yellow-green with violet tips and bloom from late winter to early spring. Bear’s foot hellebore prefers average, well-drained, alkaline soils in light shade and are often planted in containers, cottage gardens, shade gardens, winter gardens, pollinator gardens, beds, or borders.

  • Family (English) Crowfoot
  • Family (botanic) Ranunculaceae
  • Tree or plant type Perennial
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Medium plant (12-24 inches)
  • Light exposure Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Alkaline soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest late winter, early spring
  • Flower color and fragrance Other
  • Shape or form Arching, Broad, Mounded, Round
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Wildlife Birds, Butterflies, Insect pollinators

Size and method of spreading:

At maturity, bear’s foot hellebore is between 1 to 2 feet tall and 1 to 1 ½ feet wide. It spreads by self-seeding. 

Native geographic location and habitat: (include C-value if appropriate)

Bear’s foot hellebore is native to the United Kingdom. 

Attracts birds or pollinators: 

Bear’s foot hellebore attracts bees, birds, butterflies, moths, and other beneficial insects. 

Leaf description:

Bear’s foot hellebore leaves are evergreen to semi-evergreen. When they are crushed, the leaves emit an unpleasant scent. They are dark purplish-green, hairless (glabrous), leathery (coriaceous), and divided into seven to 10 narrowly elliptic to lance-shaped (lanceolate) leaflets that form each fanlike, palmately compound leaf. The shape of the leaves have been compared to a bear’s footprint, hence the name. The compound leaves attach to the stems with long stalks (petioles). The edges of the leaves are irregularly toothed (serrate).

Flower description:

The flowers produced on bear’s foot hellebore are nodding, cuplike, yellow-green flowers with violet tips. The flowers are up to 1 inch in diameter. They have five petal-like sepals surrounding petals that have been modified into tubular nectaries. The nectaries originate from under the pollen-bearing structures (stamens), which lengthen as they mature, sometimes extending past the length of the sepals. The stamens surround the ovaries (pistils), which form a sort of bottle shape and are topped with pointed, sticky structures (styles). The stems on which the flowers occur are a light yellow-green, and they are covered with large, leaflike bracts. Bear’s foot hellebore flowers grow in small clusters (cymes) from a singular point of connection at the terminal ends of the stems.

Fruit description:

The developing fruit of bear’s foot hellebore is surrounded by persistent, petallike sepals that spread as the fruit matures. The nectaries and stamens fall from the flowers as the ovaries mature into fruit. The fruit is long with a pointed tip (beak) and opens from top to bottom along one side when mature (follicles). 

Plant Care:

Bear’s foot hellebore prefers light shade, but the plant can tolerate full shade conditions. It grows best in well-drained, average, humus-rich, alkaline soils. Wear gloves when handling the plant to avoid skin irritation. Mulch around bear’s foot hellebore in the fall and shield plants from cold winds. Removing spent flower stems can encourage foliar growth and reduce self-seeding. When grown from seed, it may take 2 to 4 years for bear’s foot hellebore plants to bloom for the first time.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Bear’s foot hellebore may attract aphids and snails. It can be susceptible to crown rot or leaf spot. It is drought tolerant once established and deer resistant.


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