Simply The Best Natives-St. John’s Wort

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“Stick a depressed person in a garden and within a few hours those deep blues will lighten up.  A lovingly tended garden can make you a healthier and probably happier person.”  ~Marjorie Harris

 

 

In summer, while the garden is brimming with a chorus of colorful blooms, one wonderful shrubby plant brings dozens of pollinators to its sunshiny flowers that are like a neon sign saying look at me!  The plant is my native Hypericum prolificum, Shrubby St. John’s Wort, in the Clusiaceae Family (St. John’s Wort Family).  Secretly I think the other flowers DSCN9399are jealous of this wonderful native plant.

There are over 490 species of Hypericum worldwide.  Many are native to the United States but one is considered a weed by farmers. It is Hypericum perforatum which is considered invasive in many states, but is still readily available.  It is native to Europe and is the St. John’s Wort most notable for its medicinal properties.  The name,  Hypericum, comes from the Greek hyper and eikon meaning “over an apparition” as people believed the plant had power over evil spirits.

I am linking in with Gail@Clay and Limestone for her Wildflower Wednesday meme as I profile this wonderful native plant.

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And I am also joining forces with a local native plant nursery, Amanda’s Garden, to purchase native plants for my garden.  The owner, Ellen Folts, specializes in woodland, prairie and wetland native perennials.

 

 

 

Growing Conditions

Hypericum prolificum blooms from June through August in zones 3 to 8.  It requires sun to partial shade in dry to moist soil and is considered flood tolerant.  It will even take rocky, dry soil and my clay soil. 

DSCN4331Shrubby St. John’s Wort is a very small deciduous shrub that grows to 3 ft. tall, with wonderful exfoliating dark brown, almost purple colored bark. The oblong, medium green leaves are smooth and turn yellow-green in fall.  The large, yellow flowers turn into a great looking 3-celled capsule (pictured here) that makes for a great look all winter.

The plant can be propagated by seed with no special treatment or softwood cuttings that root easily.  It has no insect or serious disease issues.
  

 

 

Benefits to Wildlife

The flowers of Hypericum prolificum are usually cross-pollinated by bumblebees. Other insects that love its pollen include DSCN1926Syrphid flies, Halictid bees, several leaf beetles, the caterpillars of the butterfly Strymon melinus (Gray Hairstreak), and the caterpillars of several moths.  There is no nectar in the flowers.

Most mammals that love to eat foliage avoid this plant because the chemical in the leaves can irritate their skin and gastrointestinal tract.  So it is a keeper if you have deer and rabbit.

 

 

 

Where Are They Found

DSCN9397There are about 60 species of Hypericum in North America.

 Hypericum prolificum can be found in Ontario and Quebec, and south to New York, Michigan and Iowa. Then finally down to Georgia, Louisiana and Oklahoma.

Look for it in open woods, meadows, upland prairies, rocky bluffs, stream banks, swamps, fields and even roadsides 

 

 

 

Uses

DSCN1398St. John’s Wort is used still today to help with depression although studies have not proven its effectiveness.  As always, consult an expert before using plants as a remedy.

It is useful in xeric landscaping, or wet areas depending on the species.  Perfect in a herb or native plant gardens, and wonderful for a wildlife garden too.

And they look great even in winter.

 

 

 

Folklore and Tales  

Many Native American tribes used Hypericum prolificum to treat sores, fever, gastrointestinal issues, nosebleeds and snakebite.  It was also said to treat ulcers, cancer and insomnia.

DSCN1389Ancient Greeks were said to wave a sprig of Hypericum to ward off evil.  There are lots of superstitions about this plant. If Hypericum is gathered and hung on doors and windows on St John’s eve, it will be a safeguard against thunder and evil spirits.

Hypericum also has a legend that if the plant has healthy growth, a maiden’s fate is favorably predicted.  This is a verse that goes with this legend.

 

 “The wonderful herb whose leaf will decide

If the coming year shall make me a bride.”

 

And there is also a superstition from the Isle of Wight.  It says if you step on Hypericum accidentally, a fairy horse will rise right under your legs taking you on a ride until dawn when it will then disappear leaving you stranded.

 

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 Do you have Hypericum growing in your garden?  

 

  

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Simply The Best 2014:

 

August-Golden Alexanders

July-Wild Geranium

June-Ostrich Fern

May-Bloodroot

April-Echinacea

March-Northern Sea Oats

February-Common Boneset

January-Pearly Everlasting

 

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Next up on the blog:  

Monday, I will have an update on my veg garden.  And Wednesday brings another wildlife story for Wildlife Wednesday.

I am linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Tuesday.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

 

 

 

67 comments

  1. Christina says:

    Yes some Hypericum has seeded itself on the slope, it grows all around the fields here. It is one of the essential ingredients in the special herb, perfumed water that we us to wash our faces with on the morning of St. John’s day. San Giovanni.

    • Donna says:

      Christina that sounds like a wonderful herb perfumed water used as part of the special St. John’s Day. I had not heard of this special day. But I bet my 92 year old Italian aunt knows of it.

  2. Karin/Southern Meadows says:

    I have several growing around our garden. I love it and so do the bees! But, I didn’t know that the blooms didn’t have nectar nor the folklore behind this plant. I’m still waiting to see some caterpillars on mine.

  3. Jennifer says:

    St. John’s Wort is a plant that I have long been interested in. I tried to grow it once, but it didn’t take. I made note of the invasive variety, so I don’t make a mistake when I try St. John’s Wort again. I love the shape of the leaves and the three celled capsule. It is certainly a plant I would love to have in my garden.

  4. Ginnie says:

    I have a feeling this is a miracle plant, Donna, since it seems to pop up in so many articles I’ve read lately…particularly related to insomnia. But I also recall reading about it years ago for menopause (I think?). Anyway, I was reading about melatonin the other day and there it was again…St. John’s Wort. So, like a said, a miracle plant. 🙂

  5. Jean Campbell says:

    The Hypericums in my garden are St. Andrew’s Cross, with a smaller yellow blossom with four petals. A native, it seeded itself and I allow it to grow in dry oak shade with Azaleas, whacking it back when it gets pushy.

  6. Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern says:

    I just love these flowers. I think I had Hypericum Calycinum growing in my garden but last Winter may have put an end to it. I confess, I have not been out in my front garden enough to notice since it is more of a ground cover and may be hiding under the crabapple. I hope some of it came back!

  7. susan troccolo says:

    I’m with Ginnie on this one. It does seem to be some kind of miracle plant. And its effects are powerful from my one experience of taking it for a time. I know that many physicians are frustrated because often people will leave these herbal medications OFF their list of drugs being taken thinking “oh it’s just an herb!”….however, St. John’s Wort interacts with a lot of stuff and can create real problems in conjunction with an antidepressant. It’s really good that you have highlighted this amazing herb!

    • Donna says:

      That is great advice Susie as we need to be careful about herbs we take. I have never used it, but have heard it is indeed a miracle plant.

  8. Susan Clark says:

    As soon as I saw the first picture I thought, “I have this plant”. It is growing underneath rhodos in a mostly shaded area. Once the the rain eases up I’ll go and have a closer look. Pretty sure another mystery has been solved.

  9. Julie says:

    Marjorie was blunt! I agree that being outside and connecting with nature is very uplifting though. The detail in your post Donna is wonderful. My neighbour grows a tall Hypericum hedge along our dividing boundary, the scent as I brush past it is quite heady, I love the cheerful colour too.

  10. Tom says:

    I never had seen SJW until this summer on a high voltage electrical power pylon right of way cut (great spots for wildflowers) I saw hundreds of bushes covered in bumblebees, some 6 ft tall.

  11. Indie says:

    I don’t have this plant, but I always hear how much everyone loves it. And deer and rabbit hardy? Very awesome! I love the cheerful and unusual flowers, too – it is on my list!

    • Donna says:

      Yes I agree it has so many pluses…critters don’t eat it, but browse it for its pollen. And the flowers are stunners….glad you liked it Indie!

  12. Shirley/Rock-Oak-Deer says:

    I was given a small start of this plant last year and when I checked today it was still growing well though it has not bloomed. Those blooms are pretty. I’m not sure if it is the native variety or not. So far it’s been quite well behaved and I enjoy having it in the garden. The garden always brightens my day so it must be working.

    • Donna says:

      Not irony at all Guy as that was also my blog. I have 2 and this one is more directly about gardening. I has not realized I did use lots of yellow flowers this week on both blogs. I am honored you found both blogs to your liking enough to comment. I promise to visit your blog soon.

  13. Sallie (FullTime-Life) says:

    That is some plant! The other plants have good reason to be envious. I’ve heard of the herbal uses (used to go to a Naturopathic physician) … but knew nothing else about it — including how beautiful the flower is . And the legends. I kind of want to find one and step on it just to see what that ride would be like!

  14. Nadezda says:

    Hypericum grows here in woods and I can often find it when hunting mushrooms. We have often here Hypericum bubleroides that is very useful as medical treatment and Hypericum ascyron but do not use this one. There is alcoholic bitters of Hypericum roots in drugstores.

  15. Cathy says:

    Lovely to see your native Hypericum. As you say, ours is the H perforatum and it seeds itself around but is certainly not invasive. I have a couple that have settled in my garden, and another shrubby one I planted which must be similar to yours, but I can’t remember the name!

    • Donna says:

      I am finding this is more common than not Cathy…..what is native for you does not end up invasive…but here in a different environment it becomes so. And I think the reverse is true to some degree for our natives in other environments. I am glad you enjoyed my native Hypericum. And I do like the shrubby SJW as it makes the plant a bit more interesting as a shrub and a flowering plant.

  16. Corner Garden Sue says:

    I love the bloom on St. John’s Wort! I can’t remember if I’ve tried growing it here. If I did, it did not survive.

    Thanks for visiting my blog, and telling me the way in which you cut milkweed back. I want to try cutting some of mine back next year.

  17. Sue Link The Northern New York Gardener says:

    I loved your pictures of the beautiful flowers of the St John’s Wort. I like the fact this plant is deer resistant and flowers most of the season. I always find that yellow flowers in a garden brightens it up even on a cloudy day. I’ll have to look for this variety or order some seeds. Thanks for the interesting information.

  18. nicole says:

    Aren’t plants great!!! I am thinking I need to add one to my garden as soon as possible as I could use more happy bloomers for the end of the season! Wishing you a wonderful weekend friend! Nicole

  19. Christina says:

    Dear Donna, I enjoyed reading about St. John’s Wort, a wildflower that is new to me and I don’t recall seeing here in the US nor in Germany (if it grows in my home country). It amazes me, how many species are growing of this plant world wide. I don’t know if it would help with depression if you take it internally, but just looking at the sunny saturated yellow color can cheer a person up for sure :-)! Thanks for a great post! Wishing you nice weekend,
    Christina

  20. Dorothy says:

    We had hypericum (don’t know the variety) growing as a ground cover around our swimming pool at our last house years ago. I don’t remember the bees being a problem, though. It did make a great ground cover. I enjoyed reading your post about its uses and lore. Your posts are always so interesting and informative!

  21. Janet/Plantaliscious says:

    St. John’s Wort gets seeded around here a lot, I blame the birds, they love the berries! A very cheerful plant with those golden yellow flowers, I love the way you get berries and flowers at the same time, plus it has pretty good autumn colour. What’s not to like, even if you don’t want to try it as a medicinal!

  22. Jason says:

    I have a shade loving Hypericum growing near my front door, by the ostrich ferns. I tried to dig it out at one point, but now it’s coming back and I’m glad. I had no idea it was such a good pollinator plant.

  23. Island Threads says:

    I have a couple of hyperciums one which seems similar to your’s Donna and a tiny shrub only growing about 8inches (20cm), I love them both, I love the bright starry yellow flowers, interesting info about them, thanks, Frances

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