Winter heliotrope (Petasites fragrans) is found in damp places such as hedgerows and woodlands where it forms large patches of heart or kidney-shaped leaves. Petasites is from the Greek petasos, a broad-brimmed hat worn by shepherds. Fragrans of course means fragrant. It has hairy stems and pretty star-shaped flowers that have a delightful vanilla scent, though only male flowers are produced in the UK. True heliotropes are in the borage family, winter heliotropes in the daisy family. Though heliotrope is also used to describe the colour ‘pink-purple


It was introduced, as an ornamental from the Mediterranean and North Africa and is now naturalised in lowland Britain though not frost resistant so very rarely found in the north of the country.


It is one of the earliest sources of nectar for insects, flowering in January through to March. I discovered these clumps in the hedgerow near Trencrom Hill.

My first wild flower of the year. And not one to introduce to the garden as apparently they spread at an alarming rate and are difficult to eradicate. They are pretty though.


18 thoughts on “Wild flower portrait: Winter Heliotrope

  1. Incredibly pretty . . . I’ve always wanted to grow them by a dry-stone wall but as a) I don’t have any dry-stone walls, and b) I’ve now learnt that they are a bit like ground elder in taking hold of a garden, maybe not!

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        1. Small, but interesting I’d say. I want to make some changes this year which involves digging up the lawn… not sure my back is up to that though.


  2. I’m particularly partial to the look of those gorgeous green leaves! What a lovely flower, too. It seems like a flower that although invasive would be a big temptation! So nice to have something flowering so beautifully in winter.

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