Hepatica has been considered a medicinal plant in the past, but this is one of the cases where scientific reasoning needs to override lore: the plant belongs to the Ranunculaceae family, just like the buttercup, and contains the same toxic compounds, albeit in much smaller doses. Hepatica is poisonous in large quantities. It is occasionally used in homeopathy, but this is definitely not something safe to do at home.

The name sprung from the false belief the plant could heal liver afflictions, belief fueled by the strange similarity between some hepatica varieties' foliage and the color of the liver itself.

It is among the first flowers to bloom in spring, and the bloom precedes the new foliage by a couple of weeks at least. Established hepaticas put forth cheerful clumps of flowers for a month or so, when the rest of the garden doesn't have much to show for itself.

They are wildflowers and mix well with other woodland natives, wild bleeding hearts, crocuses, trilliums and grape hyacinths.

This specific plant is a survivor: during the first year I plucked it while weeding, and the second year the drought almost got it, but it lived to get established and beautify the garden with more and more pretty flowers each spring. Last fall I divided it and moved some to a new flower bed, where it seems to do well. I'll be careful not to pluck it this time.

Its foliage is attractive too, the broad trilobate leaves, shiny and bright green, bring interesting texture to the part shade flower bed through the summer and fall.

Author's Bio: 

Main Areas: Garden Writing; Sustainable Gardening; Homegrown Harvest
Published Books: “Terra Two”; “Generations”
Career Focus: Author; Consummate Gardener;
Affiliation: All Year Garden; The Weekly Gardener; Francis Rosenfeld's Blog

I started blogging in 2010, to share the joy of growing all things green and the beauty of the garden through the seasons. Two garden blogs were born: allyeargarden.com and theweeklygardener.com, a periodical that followed it one year later. I wanted to assemble an informal compendium of the things I learned from my grandfather, wonderful books, educational websites, and my own experience, in the hope that other people might use it in their own gardening practice.