Winter Aconite (Eranthis Hyemalis) is the woodland member of the Buttercup Family ‘Ranunculacea’ that is charmingly from the latin for ‘little frog’. Winter Aconite is sometimes known as Winter Hellebore and is not to be confused with ‘true’ Aconite – also known as Wolfsbane and Monkshood – although both are poisonous so no Herbals for this one. Gerard however did recommend Winter Aconite for Scorpion stings.
Winter Aconite is a pretty little perennial often found growing across forest floors and that can flower as early as January in the right conditions. It looks beautiful with snowdrops and bluebells and will happily grace any altar for Imbolc. It is easy to grow (you buy the bulbs and plant anywhere in the garden that best resembles woodland conditions) and requires little maintenance.
The origin of the common name Winter Aconite and the fact that the entire plant is poisonous has its origin in Greek and Roman mythology. According to the myth, Medea attempted to murder Theseus by spiking his wine with the poisonous saliva of Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guarded the underworld. Hercules dragged Cerberus out from the underworld, and the light of day upset Cerberus, at which point his poison saliva fell on the path around him. The saliva hardened into stones in the soil, and from those stones, Winter Aconite grew.
I would recommend Winter Aconite for any garden, it will grow in pots too and is so pretty with its bright yellow, sunny flowers.
The Winter Aconite Fairy Poem – Cicely Mary Barker
Deep in the Earth
I woke, I stirred.
I said: “Was that Spring I heard?
For something called!”
“No, no,” they said:
“Go back to sleep. Go back to bed.”
“You’re far too soon;
The world’s too cold
For you, so small.” So I was told.
But how could I
Go back to sleep?
I could not wait; I had to peep!
Up, up, I climbed,
And here am I.
How wide the earth! How great the sky!
O wintry world,
See me, awake!
Spring calls, and comes; ’tis no mistake.