Hepatica , a genus of plants of the order ranunculaceoe, so closely allied to anemone that some botanists place it as a section of that genus. The common name is liver-leaf, and it is sometimes incorrectly called liverwort, a name that should be restricted to a family of cryptogamous plants. The botanical name and its popular one both have reference to a fancied resemblance in shape between the leaves of the plant and the liver. The old herbalists, who believed in the doctrine of signatures, assumed that each medicinal plant indicated in some manner the disease it would cure or the portion of the body it would affect, and hepa-tiea was at one time used for liver complaints; hut it is nearly destitute of active properties, being at most a demulcent. The hepaticas are stemless perennials, with numerous radical, heart-shaped, three-lobed, thick, persistent leaves, from among which there rise in early spring numerous hairy scapes, each bearing a single flower; the flowers are without petals, the colored calyx appearing like a corolla, and the three-leaved involucre is so close to the flower as to appear like a calyx; the sepals in the wild state are six to nine, blue, purple, or even white; stamens and pistils numerous.
The commonest species, H. triloba, is widely distributed in the cooler portions of both hemispheres; H. acutiloba has the lobes of the leaves pointed, while in the other they are very obtuse and rounded, and may be only a variety of the preceding; it is found from Vermont to Wisconsin. Both species grow in rich woods among the fallen leaves, and lift up their bright flowers soon after the snow has gone. The single-flowered II. triloba, with several double varieties, with flowers of various shades of red, blue, purple, and crimson, as well as white-flowered ones, are in cultivation in Europe. In this country they do not succeed, exposed to the heats of our long summers, unless in a moist rich soil. The double varieties are increased by division. A species or a marked variety, H.angulosa, has recently been brought into cultivation from Transylvania; it is much larger than ours, the flowers being sometimes two inches across.