Helleborus foetidus, known variously as stinking hellebore, dungwort, setterwort and bear's foot, are evergreen perennial plant. The scientific name derives from the Greek name "elein" to injure and "bora" food. All parts of the plant are poisonous, containing glycosides. Symptoms of intoxication include violent vomiting and delirium. An overdose of medication containing hellebore has been suggested as a possible cause of the death of Alexander the Great
Despite its common name, it is not noticeably malodorous, although the foliage is pungent when crushed.
The flowers have five "petals" (actually sepals) surrounding a ring of small, cup-like nectaries (petals modified to hold nectar). Yeasts colonise the nectaries and their presence has been found to raise the temperature of the flower, which may aid in attracting pollinators to the flower by increasing the evaporation of volatile organic compounds. It was the first species in which this effect was discovered.
Part of the grain, the elaiosomes attracts ants, which take the seed to their nest and feed the elaiosome to their larvae. This type of seed dispersal is termed myrmecochory from the Greek "ant" (myrmex) and "dispersal" (kore). This type of symbiotic relationship appears to be mutualistic.
Many species of Helleborus are used in gardens and medicinal plants.