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roundlobe hepatica (Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa)





















roundlobe hepatica

round-lobed hepatica




squirrel cup

snow trillium


blue anemone






golden trefoil

ivy flower

herb trinity


Paas-blumes (from the Dutch for 'Easter Blooms').


The plant gets its name from the leathery purple-brown basal leaves, which resemble the liver (see herbal lore, below). Hepatica shares its linguistic

roots with "hepatitis."


Anemone americana (DC.) H. Hara

Anemone hepatica L.

Hepatica americana (DC.) Ker Gawl.

Hepatica hepatica (L.) Karst., nom. inval.

Hepatica triloba Chaix var. americana DC.

CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.

TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for roundlobed

hepatica is Hepatica nobilis Schreb. var. obtusa (Pursh) Steyerm. This species is listed as Anemone americana in the Flora of Virginia.


Sharplobed hepatica and roundlobed hepatica have gone through a couple of name changes, at one time Hepatica acutiloba and Hepatica americana respect-

ively, and more recently considered different varieties of the same species, Hepatica nobilis var. acuta and var. obtusa respectively. Now they are different species again, in Anemone Genus, and closely related to the European species Anemone hepatica. The easiest way to differentiate sharplobed from roundlobed is the round or pointed tips on leaves. The flowers are much the same and, while the tips of the bracts on sharp-lobed may be more pointed than on round-lobed, this can be subtle so is not necessarily a reliable distinction. Their ranges overlap significantly and may be found in the same habitat at the same time of year, though roundlobed hepatica may be found on drier sites in more acidic soils.

NATIVE STATUS:  Native, United States and Canada.



Habit: Roundlobed hepatica is a small evergreen herb 3 - 7" high with flowers upright or slightly nodding, and leaves recumbent or partially upright. Flower stalks and the young leaves clustered at their base are covered in downy hairs.


Leaves: Leaves are up to 3 inches long and wide on a slender hairy stalk up to 6 inches long, and lobed in 3 parts of similar size, each lobe generally round to oval with a well-rounded tip. The leaves don't start opening up until the flowers bloom. They are mostly solid green or 2-tone green through spring and summer, turn dark green or brown in fall and persist through the winter. They wither away when the plant starts blooming again the following spring.


Flowers: A single flower ½ to 1 inch across is at the end of a hairy leafless stalk. There are 5 to 12 petal-like sepals, usually 6, and numerous white stamens surrounding a green center. Petal color ranges from violet to white, sometimes pinkish. Behind the flower are 3 large hairy bracts each up to ½ inch long, oval to egg-shaped with a blunt or rounded tip. One plant has a tuft of a few to many flowers.


Fruit/Seeds: The carpels turn brown and become beaked achenes that are often pubescent.


Roots: The root system consists of a tuft of fibrous roots.

REGENERATION PROCESS: Roundlobed hepatica propogates itself by re-

seeding. Hepatica has the ability to self-pollinate and produce seed without the aid of insects; however, hepaticas use ants to distribute their seeds (myrmecochory).

The seeds of hepatica have a small, fleshy appendage called an elaisome. Ants collect and carry the seeds back to their nests where they consume the lipid-rich elaisomes and then discard the seeds. The seeds are carried some distance from the parent plants and usually discarded in the nutrient-rich refuse heap of the ant colony. Rodents that dine on the seeds are less likely to find all of them if they are removed from the proximity of the mother plants, thus the ants perform a service for the plants by ensuring the survival of some of the seeds.


HABITAT TYPES: Both sharplobed and roundlobed hepatica habitat similar sites. Habitats include dry upland, preferably rocky deciduous woodlands, rocky bluffs, the slopes of bluffs, and limestone cliffs (where some shade occurs).

SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Round-lobed hepatica prefers Dry to moist
loamy or sandy soil (usually rocky) in
partial to full shade.

SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs from early-

to mid spring (March and April), sometimes into early summer (June).

GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Roundlobed hepatia naturally occurs throuhout

the eastern United States and Canada (except Newfoundland), and extends west

Arkansas to Minnesota into Manitoba. It does not naturally occur in Rocky Moun-

tain, southwestern, Pacific west or northwest states or Canadian provinces.


IMPORTANCE AND USES: The faunal association for roundlobed hepatica is believed to be similar to sharplobed hepatica (Hepatica nobilis variety acuta). For

sharplobed hepatica, small bees collect pollen from the flowers, while Syrphid flies and other flies feed on the pollen. Bee visitors include honeybees, Small Carpenter bees, Andrenid bees, and Halictid bees. Nectar is not provided by the flowers. Chipmunks reportedly eat the achenes. The brownish green basal leaves are poisonous and somewhat camoflaged; it seems unlikely that they are eaten by mammalian herbivores to any significant extent.

American Indians used leaf tea of this and the similar sharplobed hepatica or liverleaf (Hepatica acutiloba) for a variety of ailments, including coughs, fevers and liver complaints. Both forms were used extensively for a variety of medical problems (abdominal aches, as a contraceptive, inducing childbirth, breathing problems, convulsions, as a laxative, as well as to treat hemorrhoids, convulsions, ringworm, bruises, dysentery, etc) by Native American Indian tribes (including for liver type problems by the Cherokee among others). Unusual uses included the Iroquois using it for fortune-telling, the Chipewa as charms to help trap furbearing animals, the Potawatomi as a dye, and the Meskwaki as a wash for crossed-eyes. The Cherokee supposedly used it to induce vomiting and thus eliminate "bad snake dreams". Linneaus even listed it as a medicinal plant in his Materia Medica. Hepatica was used in a commercial medicine called "Dr. Rogers' Liverwort and Tar" in the 1800's; more than 200 tons of hepatica leaves were imported to Europe in 1883 alone.


According to more country folklore, its powdered leaves could be spread on an intended's clothing as a love spell of sorts.



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