// you’re reading...


Hepatica introduction and description of species and varieties

Hepatica belongs to Ranunculacea. It was previously attributed to the anemone, but was separated from there due to the green sepal-like bracts, which sits just below the coloured petals.
Hepatica is widespread in the northern hemisphere in large parts of Europe and Asia. There are also a few varieties in the U.S.
Hepatica name alludes to the lobed liver-shaped leaves (hepatic = liver).
There is a huge breeding work in the cultivation of Hepatica. It is concentrated mainly in Japan, where one breed all sorts, such as multicoloured full or half-filled flowers, single flowers in all colours, including green, yellow, striped, dotted etc.
Virtually all the varieties available on the market today comes from Japan and are mostly chosen by H. nobilis var. japonica, and often from forma magna, which has the largest flowers and the largest number of stamens and pistil. H. japonica is also the variety, which is most varied in both flower colour and form.
Most cultivars come from the mountains around Niigata, located on the northwest of the main island of Honshu, and from Sado Island, located off the coast of Niigata. These have revealed interesting mutant forms that represent the family tree of many of the varieties available today. Indeed in this area the most nurseries and growers are based.
When a group of plant collectors 30 years ago found some very unusual forms in this area, it triggered a real boom in interest in Hepatica, and within a few years, several hundred clones were selected and named.
The Japanese name for Hepatica is Yukiwariso, which means “a plant that shoots up from the snow,” and it is in Japan, as well as here, a wonderful harbinger of spring.

Hepatica japonica special leaves 545

Hepatica japonica special leaves 32

Moreover, it is not only flowers but also leaves that may be of interest. At H.japonica seems variegated leaves very frequently, you can actually say that it is common, while in H. nobilis it is more rare to come across good leaf patterns.
At H. japonica is unique leaf patterns, where the leaves example are marbled in red, have white or yellow edges or patterns etc. And some leaves are shiny, some matt, some hairy, etc.
It is not just the flowers, but also the leaves that makes Hepatica for collectibles.


Botanical description


The root is a fibrous root, with developed a form of rhizome. Rhizome occurs on older plants, and from here new shoots emerge. Most species, if not all, are evergreen and there is only one flower per stem. The stem is leafless. Petiole, flower stalk, leaf and sepal are usually hairy. The plant will be approx. 10-15 cm high.
The flower usually has 5-8 petals. There are filled or half-filled forms where stamens and stigmas more or less are transformed into petals.
The petals are ranging in colours from various shades of blue to red, purple and white.
Anthers are at H.nobilis almost always white, though in H.japonica almost always they are coloured.


Like many plant genera are also among Hepatica considerable disagreement within the subdivision and naming.
Often seen varieties named as species and often they are named after the place where they grow. For example is H. japonica the Japanese variety of H. nobilis, and therefore rightfully should be called H.nobilis var. japonica.
The same is true of H. asiatica which comes from China, and rightly should be called H. nobilis var. asiatica. Whether it is the same plant as H. nobilis var. japonica is unclear, so they are on the page with descriptions listed as two different varieties.
Anyway the terms H. japonica and H. asiatica etc. are used colloquially.
The disagreement is also evident in terms of H. falconeri coming from Pakistan and Kashmir. Here there are divergences of opinion on whether it belongs to the genus Hepatica or to the genus Anemone. In appearance resembles much the Anemone, but several places it is described as Hepatica.
Another thing that helps to create confusion in the naming is that Hepatica nobilis, before Hepatica was separated from the anemone genus, was named Anemone triloba, and the name triloba still hangs on. E.g. one can still encounter the name Hepatica triloba, which therefore must be Hepatica nobilis var. nobilis.
As you can understand it is not so straightforward to determine how many species exist. At the risk of being disagreed with many, I venture, however, leaning towards the theory, that  currently there are five species, and rest I have placed under varieties.
The three species are:
Hepatica nobilis
Hepatica transsylvanica
Hepatica henryi
Hepatica maxima
Hepatica falconeri
Please also look the page with synonyms.

Description of species and varieties

Hepatica henryi

Hepatica henryi 2

Hepatica henryi
The plant is growing to 4-6 inches tall and grows to approx. 12 cm at fruiting.
The petiole is dense hairy. The leaves are broadly oval to rounded kidney-shaped, heart shaped at the base, outer end tip. The leaves are filled with woolly hair.
Flower colour is yellow-white tinted with pale pink, lavender or pure white.
Blooms in April-May
Native to West Hubei, Shaanxi and Sichuan, where it grows in grass gorges in forest areas in 1300-2500 meters.
H. yamatutae are some places mentioned as a variety of H. henryi, but of “Flora of China” shows that this is simply a synonym for H. henryi. It is bigger in growth than H. henryi.

H. maxima
There is little doubt about this Hepatica, which is closely related with H. nobilis var. asiatica, if it is a separate species or simply a variety of H. nobilis.
It differs from the other Asian members in the colour and size of the vegetative organs, thick leaves and lack of spots on the leaves.
The three-lobed, very rounded leaves are the largest in the genus and can be up to 15 cm in diameter. The thick leathery leaves are on the edge lined with a woolly coat. The plant grows to 28 cm high.
H. maxima is endemic in Ullung-Do (a volcanic island about. 150 km east of the Korean peninsula). Here it grows in deep shade, often under Rhododendon. The flowers are white or pink. The petals are narrow. Grown best in a greenhouse protected from frost.

Hepatica nobilis var. nobilis 'Louise Kohler'

H. nobilis var. acuta
The leaves are three-lobed, pointed, leathery, 5 cm long and wide, slightly hairy on the undersurface and smooth on top. Usually dark green.
In autumn the leaves are stained purple and stay over the winter to protect the plant.
Flower colour varies from pink to white and lavender-purple. The flower is up to 2.5 cm in diameter.
Stamens are yellow.
The plant grows 10-25 inches tall and is very upright.
Grows in moderately fertile, neutral soil in full or half shade, but is also is found on limestone.
It grows in large parts of eastern and central North America.


H. nobilis var. asiatica


The plant is 8-18 cm high.
The leaves are three lobed-ovate, sparsely hairy, the base deeply cordate, entire margin, the outer tip is blunt or sometimes acute.
Flower stems are covered with woolly hairs. The 6-11 petals are pink or purple, narrow oblong, outer end blunt.
Ovary is studded with woolly hair, which is also true for the 4 mm capsule.
Flowers in April-May. Native in Anhui, Henan, Liaoning, Southeast Shaanxi and Zhejiang, where it grows in grass covered slopes in forest areas of 700-1100 meters.

Hepatica nobilis var. glabrata

H. nobilis var. glabrata
Is a small, slow growing, pure white variety from Sweden with bright green hairless leaves. 8-10 cm tall with small white flowers.

H. nobilis var. insularis
Is a low, deciduous Hepatica where both flowers and leaves erupt simultaneously in March-April.
The tiny leaves are usually dark green with central markings.
The flowers are predominantly white, other colours are very rare.
Native to deciduous forests, on grassy mountain tops along the coasts and coastal areas in Korea.
Requires much drain. Height 3.5 to 7 cm.

H. nobilis var. japonica
H. japonica is divided into three types:
1. forma japonica that grows on the east and the west side of the main island Honshu in mountainous regions of 300-950 m in a band from Tokyo to Hiroshima.
It is generally smaller plants with fairly acute 3-lobed leaves, relatively few pistil and stamens. The petals are mainly ivory white, sometimes with pink, dark purple or red.
2. forma variegata grows in the north-eastern part in the main island Honshu in 150-770 meters.
This form has rounded foliage. The flowers have fewer oval petals and a little fewer stamens and pistil than forma japonica.
The flowers are usually white or ivory-white, sometimes with pink or red.

Hepatica japonica forma magna 29

3. forma magna. Most of the exciting modern cultivars are selected from this form.
Among Japanese Hepatica magna form has the largest flowers and the largest numbers of stamens and pistils. The anthers are often coloured. The petals are oval.
However, it is the colours and variety of the flowers that makes the plant really special. The colours can be dazzling or discreet in a palette from deep blue, violet and purple, red and pink to pure white. There are also multicoloured and double, or even yellow and green flowers occur, but it is very rare.
The leaves are rounded and three-lobed, but may also be more acute and triangular. They often have very nice markings and can be very different.
Forma magna is found in large colonies in the Niigata area along the west coast of the northern part of the main island of Honshu and in Sado Island.

Hepatica nobilis 4

Hepatica nobilis 'Lise'


H. nobilis var. nobilis


The plant grows 9-15 inches tall.
Leaves are lobed, at base cordate, lobes broad oval, entire margins, tip blunt or sometimes with a small tip. The leaves are shiny, green or sometimes marbled. Leaves, petioles and flower stalks are more or less hairy.
The flower has mostly 6 to 7 petals, but this may vary. Flower colour varies from deep cerise-pink, pink, purple, violet and various shades of blue to white. There are also filled or half filled flowers. Stamens are white.
It is native to Europe – from Spain, Italy and the Balkans in the south to Scandinavia in the north and to the Volga River in Russia in the east. It grows at an altitude of 0-2200 m.
Hepatica nobilis var. nobilis prefer a fertile, limey, not too dry soil, but thrives also on a more infertile soil.
It grows on the forest floor under mainly deciduous trees, but can also occasionally be found in spruce and pine forests.
There are many different named varieties.

H. nobilis var. obtusa. This one has very beautiful marbled leaves

H. nobilis var. obtusa
H. nobilis var. obtusa is native in big areas in the eastern and central North America where it grows in forested areas in the neutral soil.
The leaves are three-lobed, rounded, evergreen and occasionallymarbled.
The flowers are lavender, pink or white.
It will be 10-15 cm high.

Hepatica nobilis var. pubescens 'Hirenbai'

Hepatica nobilis var. pubescens

H. nobilis var. pubescens
The newly sprouted leaves are mat, often because of a dense layer of very fine hair.
H. pubescens has the smallest number of petals, pistil and stamens of all Japanese Hepatica, but the pistils are usually coloured.
The flowers have oval petals and come in as many colours as H. nobilis var. japonica forma magna.
The two-tone flowers are good in this form.
Is found in the mountains of 300-800 m in a band from Tokyo to Hiroshima on the main island Honshu.
H. nobilis var. pyrenaica
Is a compact form from the Pyrenees with beautiful marbled leaves. The flowers can be pink, blue or white, all with yellow filaments.
The plant is 8-10 cm in height.

Hepatica transsilvanica 'Rosea'

Hepatica transsilvanica 'Elison Spence'


H. transsilvanica


H. transsilvanica is native to Hungary and Romania. It grows on steep slopes in deciduous forests in drier conditions than H. nobilis var. nobilis.
H. transsilvanica is in all ways larger than H. nobilis. It grows to 20-25 cm tall and equally wide.
The leaves are toothed, 5-lobed and brighter green than in H. nobilis. They can be highly variable and winters rarely.
The root is a creeping rhizome and the whole plant is more robust than H. nobilis.
The flowers are also brighter, bigger and have more petals. It comes in blue, pink and white forms. There are double forms in which stamens and stigmas are transformed into petals
Like by H. nobilis there are many named sorts available.

H. x euroasiatica

H. x euroasiatica is a cross between H. transsilvanica and H. nobilis var. pubescens. Often the plants inherit the size from H.transsilvanica, as both leaves and flowers are somewhat larger than H.pubescens. There are mainly two popular and very beautiful varieties, namely ‘Prof. Friederic Hildebrand ‘and’ Rotgesbutteler Roschen ‘which is respectively white / blue and white / red. The progeny are mostly sterile.

Hepatica x media 'Buis'

Hepatica x media 'Milstream Merlin'

H. x media
Is a cross between H. nobilis and H. transsilvanica. As in H. x euroaisatica reminds offspring mostly much about H. transsilvanica.
There have over the years been made a lot of crossings of which we will here only see a few of the selected and named forms.
The offspring are almost always sterile.


One Response to “Hepatica introduction and description of species and varieties”

  1. Hi there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it’s really informative.
    I’m gonna watch out for brussels. I’ll appreciate if
    you continue this in future. Lots of people will be benefited from your writing.

    Posted by gods rush hack | February 16, 2015, 20:12

Post a comment

9 + = 16