Anemone hepatica (common hepatica, liverwort, kidneywort, pennywort) is a herbaceous perennial growing from a rhizome in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), native to woodland in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.
The taxonomy of the genus Anemone and its species is not fully resolved, but the latest phylogenetic studies of many species of Anemone and related genera indicate that species of the genus Hepatica should be included under Anemone because of similarities both in molecular attributes and other shared morphologies. The circumscription of the taxon is also debated, some authors listing the North American var. acuta and var. obtusa, while other list them as the separate species A. acutiloba and A. americana, respectively.
Anemone hepatica grows 5–15 cm (2–6 in) high. Leaves and flowers emerge directly from the rhizome, not from a stem above ground.
The leaves have three lobes and are fleshy and hairless, 7–9 cm (2 3⁄4–3 1⁄2 in) wide and 5–6 cm (2–2 1⁄4 in) long . The upper side is dark green with whitish stripes and the lower side is violet or reddish brown. Leaves emerge during or after flowering and remain green through winter.
Hepatica flowers only produce pollen. In North America, the flowers first attract Lasioglossum sweat bees and small carpenter bees looking in vain for nectar. Then when the stamens begin to release pollen, the bees return to collect and feed on pollen. Mining bees sometimes visit the flowers, but prefer flowers that produce both nectar and pollen.
Distribution and habitat
It is found in woods, thickets and meadows, especially in the mountains of continental Europe, North America and Japan.
Varieties of Anemone hepatica that are sometimes recognized include:
- Anemone hepatica var. japonica – Asian liverleaf, native to Japan
- Anemone hepatica var. acuta (syn. A. acutiloba) - sharp-lobed hepatica, native to Eastern North America
- Anemone hepatica var. obtusa (syn. A. americana) - round-lobed hepatica, native to Eastern North America
Medieval herbalists believed it could be used to treat liver diseases, and is still used in alternative medicine today. Other modern applications by herbalists include treatments for pimples, bronchitis and gout.
It is the official flower of the Sweden Democrats political party in Swedish politics.
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