“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.
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