Hepatica americana is part of the buttercup family and the flowers can be any shades of lilac, bluish, pink, or white. Some of the flowers are scented, others aren’t, and supposedly no two groups of hepaticas will ever look exactly the same. In early spring, hepaticas have leathery, ratty looking, brown leaves. These are the leaves from the previous summer’s growth… new leaves won’t appear until after the flowers have finished blooming. Hepatica leaves start out green and become a mottled greenish-purple. Some people think they resemble the shape and color of a liver, which is how hepaticas came to be called “liverwort”. Each leaf has three lobes and is very thick and coarse. Both the leaves and flower stems are heavily covered with tiny hairs.
Usually the plants grow in clusters, but it is not unusual to come across individual plants with only one or two flowers, growing alone. Hepaticas prefer the open woods and soil rich in leaf mold, and often they will thrive around the bases of trees. The showy part commonly thought of as the flower is actually six white or colored sepals with several pistils and stamens in the center of the “flower”. The pistils and stamens turn green after fertilization.
Hepaticas are always our first sign of spring.
These were the first hepatica flowers I found
This year, winter seemed to last even longer than usual… probably because we had the snowiest winter ever on record for this area, and because as recently as two weeks ago we still had over three feet of snow on our front lawn and almost everywhere else.
Hepatica buds peeking through the leaves
Then we had a couple of days of a warm, steady rain, and a few more days of temperatures around 60°F, and much of the snow just disappeared. It was wonderful!
A single purple hepatica flower
The snow always takes longer to melt in the woods across the road from our house, and there was still quite a lot of snow over there, but I couldn’t resist checking to see if the hepaticas were blossoming yet… and they were.
More hepaticas in bloom… suddenly it really IS spring!