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ORRIN MORRIS: Self-pollinating hepatica is one the earliest wildflowers to bloom in spring

ROUND-LOBED HEPATICAHepatica americana

ROUND-LOBED HEPATICAHepatica americana

In the Bible, the word family is much broader than father, mother and children. The biblical usage is what we refer to as the extended family. The family may include several hundred people from great-grandparents to the children and grandchildren of all younger brothers, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

The fourth commandment reads, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you" (Exodus 20:12).

This is not the nuclear family that our Industrial Society has created and seeks to move across the country and around the world to accommodate its economic priorities. The biblical term applies to the extended family that functioned like a "social security" system.

Jesus added a new dimension to society when He said, "love your neighbor as yourself." May we learn to apply His counsel on a global scale as we make basic needs of food, shelter and clothing available to all the human family.

In botany, the term "family" refers to a large group of species and subspecies, related by common characteristics. Today we examine a member of the buttercup family.

ROUND-LOBED HEPATICA

Hepatica americana

You can start looking for hepatica now because the leaves are evergreen. During winter the leaves may get brownish spots and sometimes turn rust-colored but they are easily identified by the three rounded lobes as sketched.

Note also that the under-surface of the leaves is purplish. The old leaves will be replaced by new ones, but not before the flowers appear.

This perennial grows on the ground without a central stem. When blooms appear the total height is rarely more than 6 inches.

The blooms are the most unique feature because they are not what they appear to be. First, the six to 10 "petals" are sepals, small modified leaves at the rim of the flowers.

These sepals form a cup-shaped structure to attract insects to the small flowers. They are colored light pink, pale blue, and occasionally white. On the underside of the bloom are three green hairy bracts.

The flower is very small but the stamens are long, about half the length of the sepals. The pistil is light green and egg-shaped.

Hepatica, also called Liverwort, is self-pollinating and is one of the earliest spring blooming wildflowers.

Hepatica has a long history as an herbal treatment for bronchitis, liver, gallbladder, and kidney problems. Do not experiment with this plant because uncontrolled dosage can cause symptoms of poisoning.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. Notecards are available of the wildflowers published in the Citizen. His e-mail is odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com or call him at 770-929-3697.