WINTER ACONITE (Eranthis hyemalis)

Winter aconites

Winter aconites alongside the Moreton Road

This member of the Buttercup family is not a native of Britain: it is found growing naturally in much of southern Europe from France to the Balkans. It was introduced into this country in the sixteenth century; one of its earliest mentions was in John Gerard's famous "Herball" of 1597. Its "Latin" name (actually of Greek origin) means "the earliest flower that blooms in winter". Like another import, its flowering contemporary the Snowdrop, it was presumably brought in to cheer us up during the almost flower-less winter.

It is now quite widely naturalised, most often in woodland or on roadside verges. The original ones in the clump in the photo were probably planted out from someone's garden.

The bright yellow flowers are each surrounded by a frill or ruff, hence their sometimes local name of "Choirboys".

It should be noted that the generic name Aconitum refers to a totally different group of plants, the Monkshoods.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service.
Image reproduced by kind permission of Ordnance Survey
and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Notes by George Metcalfe. Photos by Colin Wootton.