Veratrum viride Ait.

American false hellebore

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Veratrum viride is composed of eastern North American populations that are widely separated from western North American populations. It is hypothesized that continental glaciation produced this distribution. This plant was considered to have magical properties by many Native American tribes, who used it for talismanic and ceremonial purposes, as well as to treat conditions ranging from hair loss to madness. However, the plant was widely considered to be poisonous if eaten.

Habitat

Floodplain (river or stream floodplains), forests, marshes, swamps, wetland margins (edges of wetlands)

Characteristics

Habitat
  • terrestrial
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Leaf arrangement
alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
Leaf blade shape
  • the leaf blade is elliptic (widest near the middle and tapering at both ends)
  • the leaf blade is lanceolate (lance-shaped; widest below the middle and tapering at both ends)
  • the leaf blade is ovate (widest below the middle and broadly tapering at both ends)
Leaf blade length
150–350 mm
Flower petal color
  • green to brown
  • yellow
Flower petal length
6–10 mm
Petal fusion
the perianth parts are separate
Inflorescence type
the inflorescence is a panicle (branched with the individual flowers on stalks)
Ovary position
the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
Fruit type (specific)
the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds)
Fruit length
20–30 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Clonal plantlets
    Axillary bulblets
    there are no bulblets being produced in axils
  • Flowers
    Anther attachment
    the anther is attached by its base to the filament
    Bulblets replace flowers
    there are no bulblets where the flowers are located
    Carpels fused
    the carpels are fused (the number of carpels equals the number of locules)
    Flower bracts
    there are bracts associated with the flower
    Flower orientation
    the flowers point upward or spread or curve outward
    Flower petal color
    • green to brown
    • yellow
    Flower petal length
    6–10 mm
    Flower shape
    • the flower is bell-shaped
    • the flower is flattened or platter-shaped
    Flower symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
    Fringed petal edges
    the petals are not fringed
    Inflorescence hair glands
    the axis of the inflorescence has hairs entirely without glands
    Inflorescence length
    300–700 mm
    Inflorescence type
    the inflorescence is a panicle (branched with the individual flowers on stalks)
    Length of flower stalk
    2–10 mm
    Marks on petals
    there are no noticeable marks on the petals
    Nectar spur
    the flower has no nectar spurs
    Number of carpels
    3
    Number of sepals and/or petals
    there are six petals, sepals or tepals in the flower
    Number of styles
    3
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal appearance
    the petals are thin and delicate, and pigmented (colored other than green or brown)
    Petal base
    the petal narrows abruptly at the base
    Petal fusion
    the perianth parts are separate
    Petal hairs on inner/upper surface
    there are hairs on the inner/upper petal surface
    Petal nectaries
    there are nectaries at the petal bases
    Sepal appearance
    the sepals resemble petals in color and texture
    Sepal length
    6–10 mm
    Sepal orientation
    • the sepals are pressed against the plant, or jutting stiffly upward
    • the sepals are slightly curved outwards from the plant
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    the sepals are separate from one another
    Spathe
    the plant does not have a spathe
    Spathe form
    NA
    Spathe length
    0 mm
    Stamen number
    6
    Stamen position relative to petals
    NA
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are not fused to one another
    Stamens fused outwards
    the stamens are not fused to the petals or tepals
    Style petal-like
    the style is not broad and flattened like a petal
    Tepals
    the petals and sepals are similar in size and color
  • Fruits or seeds
    Berry color
    NA
    Capsule ridges
    there are three ribs or wings on the capsule
    Fruit compartments
    there are three locules in the fruit
    Fruit cross-section
    the fruit is at least somewhat flattened
    Fruit length
    20–30 mm
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds)
    Other markings on berry
    NA
  • Glands or sap
    Sap
    the sap is clear and watery
  • Growth form
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Root septa
    the roots do not have transverse septa
    Underground organs
    • the plant has a rhizome (a horizontal underground stem with roots growing from it)
    • the plant has one or more swollen storage organs underground, such as bulbs, tubers or corms
    • there are only slender roots on the plant
  • Leaves
    Hairs on underside of leaf blade
    • the underside of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy
    • the underside of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Hairs on upper side of leaf blade
    • the upper side of the leaf is fuzzy or hairy
    • the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Leaf arrangement
    alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Leaf blade basal lobes
    the leaf blades do not have basal lobes
    Leaf blade base
    • the leaf blade clasps the stem at the base, or the leaf blade goes all the way around the stem, so that the stem appears to pierce the leaf blade
    • the leaf has no stalk
    Leaf blade cross-section
    the leaf blade is more or less flat in cross-section
    Leaf blade faces
    both surfaces of the leaf blade are exposed
    Leaf blade form
    Fully-formed (i.e., expanded), +/- green leaf blades are found somewhere on the plant
    Leaf blade length
    150–350 mm
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is elliptic (widest near the middle and tapering at both ends)
    • the leaf blade is lanceolate (lance-shaped; widest below the middle and tapering at both ends)
    • the leaf blade is ovate (widest below the middle and broadly tapering at both ends)
    Leaf blade surface colors
    the upper side of the leaf blade is relatively uniform in color
    Leaf blade veins
    the lateral veins are parallel or slightly arched in the direction of the tip
    Leaf blade width
    100–180 mm
    Leaf stalk length
    0 mm
    Leaf type
    the leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets
    Leaflet number
    0
    Stipule twining
    NA
    Stipules
    there are no stipules on this plant
  • Place
    Habitat
    • terrestrial
    • wetlands
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • edges of wetlands
    • forests
    • marshes
    • river or stream floodplains
    • swamps
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the leaves have no particular smell
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Flowering stem growth form
    the flowering stem is held upright
    Flowering stem interior
    the flowering stem is hollow
    Flowering stem leaves
    there is at least one fully-formed leaf on the flowering stem
    Stem hairs
    • the stem has hairs on it
    • the stem is nearly or completely hairless

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in wetlands, but occasionally in non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACW)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Maine
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Symplocarpus foetidus:
leaves with branching veins and flowers in a fleshy spike concealed within a green to brown bract that is marked with purple (vs. V. viride, with leaves with parallel veins and flowers in open panicles, not concealed within a bract).

Family

Melanthiaceae

Genus

Veratrum

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Our subspecies is Veratrum viride Ait. ssp. viride.

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

2.  Veratrum viride Ait. ssp. viride N

American false hellebore. CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Riparian forests, marshes, swamps.