“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 are 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 [email protected]Clay and Limestone for her Wildflower Wednesday meme as I profile this wonderful native plant.
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.
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.
Shrubby 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 Syrphid 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
There 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
St. 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.
Ancient 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.
Do you have Hypericum growing in your garden?
Simply The Best 2014:
March-Northern Sea Oats
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 [email protected]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 Replies to “Simply The Best Natives-St. John’s Wort”
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.
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.
Glad you found it interesting Mary.
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.
I hope every year for caterpillars. I thought it had nectar too Karin but my sources say no. Great folklore though for this plant.
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.
I do hope you can get it to take Jennifer. This shrubby variety seems to be at home here and has done well growing larger each year.
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. 🙂
I think it has been hailed as a miracle plant Ginnie as much has been written about it for centuries.
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.
I love to hear when natives seed around happily. I hope I can spread mine too.
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!
It sounds like an interesting variety Kathy. I do hope it is still hiding somewhere in your garden.
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!
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.
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.
Well I hope your mystery plant was identified although there are several varieties of SJW that have a similar flower.
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.
Now that sounds like a great hedge Julie.
I am embarrassed to admit I don’t have Hypericum prolificum in my garden. I must rectify that ASAP. Great information, Donna, as usual. P. x
Well if I can help add to your incredible gardens I am most happy Pam!
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.
Wow that must have been an incredible sight…and 6 ft tall!
love to read the comments too….something else for me to look into…. Michelle
This would be a great shrubby plant in a sunny spot in your native garden Michelle.
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!
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!
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.
Mine took a couple years to bloom Shirley so I bet yours will bloom soon.
I don’t have any SJW but have room for it and I know how much bees like yellow flowers.
The colour palette turned out really nice Donna and the macro of the flower is awesome.
Thanks Judith. I will have to try more of these palettes…and your garden would love SJW.
I love to see the bumbles circling around the tops of the flowers! Great plant. Happy WW!
Thanks Beth…the bumbles are high on SJW in my garden!
I definitely agree with the opening quote! I think every hospital should have a garden.
And this plant should be part of the garden Deb!!
More pretty flowers… I just left a blog with a pretty poem, and more pretty yellow flowers. I think her name was Donna too! LOL Irony methinks…
Guy Vestal @ Counter Culture Critic
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.
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!
I love that story Sallie…it would be a fun ride!
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.
Very interesting Nadezda…I love learning about similar plants around the world. Thanks for the information.
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!
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.
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.
I have to remember to cut mine next year as this year was a fluke Sue….
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.
Well you could certainly have a few seed capsules or maybe if I can harvest the seed for you I would be happy to send it to you…let me know.
That would be wonderful, Donna. Either way is fine for me. Thanks so much. Maybe some day in a couple of weeks we can meet for lunch.
Sounds like fun…and I will do my best with getting the seed.
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
This is a perfect long summer bloomer Nicole, and I love the seed capsules and leaves in fall.
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,
Thank you Christina…I agree you just can’t stay depressed for long seeing this flower…glad you enjoyed the post.
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!
Thanks Dorothy…it has loads of native bees on it and they never seem to be a bother in my garden. That groundcover sounds delightful.
The Hypericums are all such interesting plants, always nice to find one growing in the wild too
I agree finding wildflowers and plants in the wild is wonderful!!
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!
I agree Janet…you can’t get a better plant with so many positive attributes.
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.
How wonderful Jason. Do you know which Hypercium it is as I would love to add a shade lover.
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
How wonderful to hear you have some lovely hyperciums that are special to you Frances.
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