Wild flower portrait: Winter Heliotrope

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 Comments Add yours

  1. susurrus says:

    This is a new one for me though the leaves look familiar. Lovely.

    1. Heyjude says:

      I need to go back and get some better photos and have a sniff!

  2. I love Heliotrope but don’t know this wild winter one. I shall seek it out in the lanes. 🙂

  3. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Hooray for wild flowers, bring on spring!

    1. Heyjude says:

      I don’t know how I missed them on the way to the hill, saw loads on the way back!

  4. restlessjo says:

    You’re right! I’ve never seen them up here 😦 😦 Pretty little things!

  5. BeckyB says:

    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!

    1. Heyjude says:

      Yes, you wouldn’t want them in your garden by all accounts, but then my garden is pretty full of all these hedgerow finds except this one.

      1. BeckyB says:

        Your garden sounds so so lovely ☺

        1. Heyjude says:

          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. BeckyB says:

          Hire equipment . . . . .last thing you want is to upset your back because then you can’t enjoy the fun bit of the planting.

        3. Heyjude says:

          Or get a man in. I’m not against paying for this to be done in the way I want. I shall be perfectly happy reaping the rewards 🙂

        4. BeckyB says:

          ooh that sounds an even better option 😀

  6. The leaves remind me of violets. Perhaps you could have some in a pot.

    1. Heyjude says:

      They remind me also of cyclamen leaves.

  7. Debra says:

    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.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Yes the leaves are a delight. I shall leave them in the hedgerow though and admire from a distance 🙂

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