If you’re reading this article about the liverwort, you’re reading an article about a “celebrity flower.” The Hamburg Nature Conservation Foundation has named the liverwort flower of the year 2013. He also badly needs your protection. Besides, it’s really pretty. So there are enough reasons to get involved with planting and caring for liverworts.

Classification of the liverwort

It is still certain that the liverwort genus belongs to the buttercup family, but from then on the botanists argue: Most botanists regard the liverworts as a separate genus of the Hepatica. However, some scientists are based on the latest research results z. B. genetic studies are of the opinion that the genus of the anemone (anemone) has to be defined much more broadly and that the liverworts would belong here.

The controversy is not entirely new. Within the buttercup family, anemones definitely belong to the same tribe as liverworts. The best-known representative of the liverworts, the liverwort, has long had two botanical names that reflect precisely these classification difficulties: Carl von Linné called the liverwort “Anemone hepatica” in 1753. In 1771, Johann Christian von Schreber insisted on the name “Hepatica nobilis”. Both synonyms can still be found today.

The buttercup plants are definitely worth mentioning. Finally a plant family that really feels at home in our temperate zones in the northern hemisphere. It is here in the temperate climate that most of the approximately 2,500 species have developed. Whether anemone or not, the liverworts form a very exclusive group within this group, which according to current knowledge includes no more than a few species.

The care of the liverworts

Hepaticas are the majority of forest plants, which bloom so early in early spring because the trees are then leafless. So they can benefit from the light that now comes through to the ground. The basic care needs are similar for all liverworts:

  • Location should be semi-shady
  • under trees or bushes or on the north side of a building
    • only in the deepest shade it hardly blooms anymore
  • Soil should be nutrient-rich and, for most species, calcareous
    • moderately dry and loose, best with some clay
  • Hepaticas don’t like fresh soil
    • On the other hand, they can be settled very well in places that have not seen a spade for ages
  • most species do not tolerate acidic soil very well
  • Hepaticas take their time when spreading
  • keep evenly moist but not wet
    • they like neither dryness nor waterlogging
  • Fertilization is best done by mulching, which guarantees the right moisture
    • Water mulched liverworts only if the drought lasts longer
    • powerful deep-rooting plants with roots reaching up to 30 cm into the ground

The blossom

The beautiful flowers of the liverworts appear early, but only for a very short time, you can enjoy the spectacle for about a week. The flowers close at night and when it rains, during the day and when the weather is particularly nice, they open particularly wide. Hepatica accomplishes the “opening and closing” by allowing its flowers to grow a tiny bit at a time, so the petals usually roughly double in length during the flowering period.

There is no nectar to be found in hepatica flowers, but the hepaticas are frequented by bees and butterflies, beetles and hoverflies, who eat and collect their pollen.

When cutting the liverworts, restraint is the order of the day. In fact, liverworts don’t need pruning at all because the plant uses the leaves to provide nutrients for the next shoot, and they also provide winter protection.

If it is absolutely necessary: ​​You can cut away the old leaves of established liverworts when the next flower buds have already developed. With young plants, however, you should be really careful and only go to the withered leaves when the liverworts are sure to have grown and become a little larger.

Propagating liverworts

The liverworts are not that easy to propagate, their roots are very sensitive and they do not like to be transplanted. You can try to propagate them by division, preferably during flowering, but then you will have to remove the buds or they will cost the liverworts too much energy, but you have to be really careful with the roots when doing this. The sections are then grown in the pot and only placed in the garden as strong plants when new shoots can already be seen.

It is easier if you leave the reproduction of the liverworts to nature, if they feel well, they will sow themselves.


The liverwort can hibernate all by itself, as it develops so-called outlasting buds that are deposited in the leaf axils on the ground and in the protection of the mulch layer, and most species can withstand any cold that could overtake them in Germany.


There are liverworts in Europe, East Asia and North America, but with very large gaps between the respective areas, which suggests that the liverworts developed at a time when our globe was still in motion. Because such gaps in distribution are a rather rare phenomenon. B. occur when connected areas are separated from each other by ice advances during an ice age. When this happens, the “violently” separated species evolve more or less differently in their new homes. This can also be observed in the liverworts, which have developed races in Europe, Asia and America that can be differentiated according to the geographical settlement area.

Today, botanists distinguish five to seven different types of liverworts in the genus, depending on the different systematic classifications that have been made:

  1. The primeval liverwort is probably the “Anemone falconeri” growing in the mountain forests of Central Asia , which is also called “Hepatica falconeri” because it is between the genera Anemone and Hepatica. It is closer to the anemone in shape and structure, but is said to be a parent of three species of Hepatica. Hepatica falconeri is now considered a liverwort relic that remained in Central Asia when the liverworts began their conquest into Europe, East Asia, and via a land bridge to North America that existed 23 million years ago. These Hepatica falconeri grow to a height of about 20 cm and develop white flowers of about three centimeters with reddish undersides.
  2. This gave rise to Hepatica henryi in China , and later to Hepatica yamatutai from the same parent species. Both liverworts have white flowers. One has slightly more pointed flowers than the other, in which the leaves have pointed tips. The Hepatica henryi are the smallest liverworts, with a height of between five and ten centimeters and pink flowers just under two centimeters in size. The white flowers of Hepatica yamatutai, on the other hand, grow up to five centimeters in size.
  3. The Hepatica maxima has developed quite exclusively (botanically = endemic) on the South Korean island of Ulleungdo . In the frost-free climate there, it was able to develop the largest leaves and flowers of all liverworts. They produce leaves 10 cm wide and 6 cm deep with a hairy red underside and a smooth upper surface. The flowers are also larger than other liverworts, white and sometimes tinged with pink. The oversized matt black infructescence can be admired well into autumn. However, this species is only frost hardy down to minus 5 degrees.
  4. In the Romanian mountain forests, the Hepatica transsilvanicadeveloped, the Transylvanian liverwort. It is bred in several varieties with beautiful names such as Kingfisher, Loddon Blue, Elison Spence, Thunderbird and Karpartenkrone. The names indicate the flower colors, which range from white with a blue underside to light blue and light violet to dark violet. The “Carpartenkrone” has 15 petals, the flower of the “Elison Spence” is double. These liverworts, which grow in the mountain forests of the Carpathians up to an altitude of 2 km, often bloom as early as January. Its flowers grow up to 5 cm. This early-flowering shade perennial is ideal for lending a whole new attractiveness to the barren soil under deciduous trees or evergreen shrubs. The Hepatica transsilvanica need a loose humus soil, which may be slightly calcareous,

The first three types of hepatica can also be purchased in the age of the internet by dedicated conservationists who want to help save the protected flowering plants. However, the main focus of distribution of liverworts developed in the deciduous forests of the northern hemisphere of our planet. This is where “our” liverwort, the common liverwort or Hepatica nobilis, grows.

Different variants of Hepatica nobilis

  • Hepatica nobilis var. Noble:
    • Spread from Scandinavia to the Alps and Pyrenees
    • grows in nature in sparse oak or beech forests
    • prefers calcareous clay soils
    • not critically hardy, withstands temperatures down to about minus 25 degrees
    • Perennial with star-shaped bright violet-blue flowers
    • calcareous, humus-rich and loose loamy soil and a partially shaded and bright location in spring
    • the first flowers appear as early as March
    • continues to sow, over time larger colonies develop
  • Hepatica nobilis var. asiatica or H. asiatica:
    • has inhabited forests and grassy slopes at altitudes of 700 to 1100m in eastern China
    • Spread from Korea via China to Manchuria
    • some marbled foliage
    • is available in cultivars that flower in many different colors
    • this species flowers from February to April
    • grows 15-20 cm high
    • belongs to the lime-loving liverworts
  • Hepatica nobilis var. insularis oder H. insularis
    • blooms at the same time, but only in white color
    • comes from Central and South Korea
    • only species that loses all leaves in winter
    • only thrive in very well drained soil
  • Hepatica nobilis var. japonica or H. japonica:
    • grow hemispherically and clump-forming
    • bloom purple in March and April
    • also like neutral soil and they like to stay there for years
    • require little care in suitable locations
    • are hardy down to minus 20 degrees
  • Hepatica nobilis var. pubescens oder H. pubescens
    • grows on central Japanese mountain heights
    • have developed strong growth potential, strong stature and stable flowers
  • Hepatica nobilis var. acute or H. acutiloba:
    • Native to eastern North America
    • this species belongs to the low, lime-loving and hardy species
  • H. nobilis var. obtusa oder H. americana:
    • also comes from eastern North America
    • is one of the few species that thrive in acidic soil

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