Hepatica americana (Ranunculaceae) - This delicate looking plant is actually very hardy, and is one of the very first to bloom in spring. Its name, "Hepatica", is derived from the old theory of "The Doctrine of Signatures". This theory held that if a plant looked like a body part, it could be used for ailments of that body part. The leaves of this plant (which appear after the flowers have died back) are three lobed, and reminded someone of the liver. It was therefore used for Hepatic ailments, and is also known as "liverwort".

Although that medicinal use has since been discredited, it is a guaranteed antidote to the winter doldrums! I first saw it after an incredibly long winter in Wisconsin, pushing up through the frost and dead leaves. I was so enchanted that I had to find out what it was, and from there this web site was born.

There are two types of hepatica, "sharp lobed" and "round lobed". Both bloom in early spring.
(Photographed in PA)