Hepatica nobilis

The chalky cliffs and rocky ground in this part of Bavaria are ideal for alpines and limestone-lovers such as this one –  Hepatica nobilis.

Hepaticas are also known as liverwort – so called due to their leathery leaves which are not only often dappled with “liverspots”, but are in fact similar in shape to the human liver. As a result they were formerly believed to be a cure for liver disorders.

The leaves of this protected species can be seen all through the winter if there is no snow, but the low-growing plant does prefer snow and moist soil to dry frosts. The delicate blue-violet flowers appear in February or March and are usually the first wild flowers to bloom. They close up in wet weather and actually grow slightly in size over the flowering period, which is about a week to 10 days. The new fresh leaves then follow the flower.

Every spring my heart misses a beat when I see the first ones… their little blue faces searching for sunshine remind me that I am not the only one who has to wait so long for the longer days. And the bees are so happy to see them too!

They are such hardy little plants, yet the flowers themselves look delicate, or even vulnerable.

Interestingly, the violet petal colour is able to transform light into warmth, thus protecting the flower from hard frosts.

Yet there are also pink varieties available in nurseries (Rosea Plena)… I wonder how hardy they are!

Here are some growing in my garden…