Winter Heliotrope is in fact a plant which has its roots in North Africa, but now has its roots all over Europe. It is quite invasive so once it gets its roots in, it is very difficult to eradicate it. It is also quite competitive so tends to obliterate all other wild flowers. So if you see it growing somewhere and are admiring it for its beauty and pleasant vanilla perfume then do not be tempted to take a bit and introduce it to your wild patch at the bottom of your garden because very soon your wild patch will only contain Winter heliotrope and shortly your entire garden will be Winter Heliotrope.
In fact it is never a good idea to dig up wild flowers from one place and replant them else where and for many plants it may actually be illegal. I f you really want to get something in your garden which is not already there then collect seed and do it that way.
The flowers are similar in colour and shape although the butterbur has a more dense and compact head and of course they are both shade plants and flower early in the year. Winter heliotrope is as you might expect not terribly tolerant of frost as it originates from warmer parts of the world but it quickly recovers after a knock back.
Special thanks go to A Bassiti who supplied the excellent photos for this post and who also produces a vey good blog about her garden in Charente-Maritime and all things associated with it. The blog is called A French Garden, which is quite a good name as that is what its about.
For more information about wild flowers in the Poitou-Charentes region have a look at Wildflowers of Poitou-Charentes