Hellebore & Fleur de Lys


Flowers and Trees of Tudor England

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Ellebre: Commonly known as hellebores, the Eurasian genus Helleborus consists of about 20 species of herbaceous or evergreen perennial flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae, within which it gave its name to the tribe of Helleboreae. We have two similar native species known as Bear’s Foot. In some local names the two are distinguished, Stinking Hellebore known as He-barfoot, and Green Hellebore as She-barfoot or Green Lily. Both have local and scattered distributions and, although native, many are garden escapees or relics of cultivation. Green Hellebore has been naturalised in New England. Medicinally they and the Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger), have been used to treat boils and spots, and worms in children. It is violently cathartic and dangerous and can be fatal to children. Arber (1) quotes from the Grete Herball of 1529 ‘˜in olde tyme it was commely used in medycyns … for the body of man was stronger than it is now and myght better endure the vyolence of elebore’. Chaucer (2) includes ‘ellebor’ in a list of laxatives in The Nunys Priestys Tale. Grigson (3) reproduces a woodcut from Fuchs (4) (1542) and both Arber (1) and Blunt (5) have the woodcut of the Green Hellebore from Brunfels’ (5) Herbarium.  Flour de lyz: Iris is a genus of 260 – 300 species of flowering plants with showy flowers. It takes its name from the Greek word for a rainbow, which is the name for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, Iris. Although the Fleur de Lys is clearly an Iris, it is not always clear exactly which Iris. It is a stylised Iris. The widespread and common native Yellow Flag (Iris pseudacorus), for example, is also known as Yelow Floure de Lyce (by Turner [6]) and Bastard, or Water, Flower de Luce (by Gerard [7]). From the colour of the flower, and the seeds the species illustrated here may be Iris foetidissima the Gladdon, or Stinking Iris, found in the south of England, and occurring widely in Europe. The Florentine Iris (Iris florentina) was popular in herb gardens and is cultivated in this country for the underground stems or rhizomes. These provide the so-called ‘Orris powder’ which has a fragrance like Sweet Violets and provides the basis of most ‘Violet’ powders. The word Orris may perhaps arise from transposition of the vowels of Ireos, Yellow Flag and Gladdon – both called Wild Ireos in some old herbals. Poets are do not have to be precise about which flowers they mean by their words and Spenser (8) refers to the ‘fair flower Delice’ (Shepherd’s Calendar – April Eclogue) and Shakespeare (9) to ‘. . lilies of all kinds, the flower-de­luce being one’ (Winter’s Tale).

Dimensions 24 × 33.7 cm