Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans)

I can never decide whether the appearance of Winter Heliotrope is a sign that spring is on its way or that winter is definitely with us! Sadly, it is probably the latter and we still have a month or two to wait for true signs of spring.

Winter Heliotrope was brought over from the Mediterranean in Victorian times and it subsequently 'escaped' and has become a naturalised wild flower. It is common in Dorset this time of year in damp, shaded habitats along hedgerows, road verges, river banks and waste places. It often forms quite large patches. It is interesting that despite the colder climate here it still flowers at the same time as it would have done in its home Mediterranean region. It was introduced into gardens, partly for its winter colour but also because it has a strong vanilla scent, the fragrance giving its botanical name, 'fragrans'.

The plant produces large, round leaves which are readily identified. If you see an area of large round leaves by the roadside then stop and take a closer look, it could well be Winter Heliotrope.

It will flower through until February and then it will be replaced by its cousin, Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)

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