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THE LEGEND OF THE HELLEBORE, A WINTER FLOWER

The Helleborus or Christmas rose is a true winter flower that blooms sometimes already at Christmas in the mountains of Central Europe - hence the name Christmas rose.

Helleborus niger
Helleborus niger, photo taken at the Geneva Botanical Garden

According to legend, this flower is related to the three Magi and a young shepherdess named Madelon.

Also according to that legend, one cold wintry night when Madelon tended her sheep, the three Wise Men (the Magi) and some shepherds passed by the snow covered field where she was, with their gifts for the Baby Jesus. Madelon wanted to go with them, but at the thought that she had nothing, not even a simple flower to offer, she burst into tears.

An angel, seeing her grief, brushed away the snow, thereby revealing a most beautiful white flower dotted with pink - the Christmas rose.

In the Middle Ages, due to its toxicity, this plant was used to create poison arrow tips. This is perhaps the reason why in Portugal this flower is also known as "besteira" (arrow plant).

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