COMMON ST. JOHN'SWORT
(Hypericum perforatum) St. John's-wort family
Flowers - Bright yellow, 1 in. across or less, several or many in
terminal clusters. Calyx of 5 lance-shaped sepals; 5 petals
dotted with black; numerous stamens in 3 sets 3 styles. Stem: to
2 ft. high, erect,
much branched. Leaves: Small, opposite,
oblong, more or less black-dotted.
Preferred Habitat - Fields, waste lands, roadsides.
Flowering Season - June-September.
Distribution - Throughout our area, except the extreme North;
Europe, and Asia.
"Gathered upon a Friday, in the hour of Jupiter when he comes to
his operation, so gathered, or borne, or hung upon the neck, it
mightily helps to drive away all phantastical spirits." These are
the blossoms which have been hung in the windows of European
peasants for ages on St. John's eve, to avert the evil eye and
the spells of the spirits of darkness. "Devil chaser" its Italian
name signifies. To cure demoniacs, to ward off destruction by
lightning, to reveal the presence of witches, and to expose their
nefarious practices, are some of the virtues ascribed to this
plant, which superstitious farmers have spared from the scythe
and encouraged to grow near their houses until it has become,
even in this land of liberty, a troublesome weed at times. "The
flower gets its name," says F. Schuyler Mathews, "from the
superstition that on St. John's day, the 24th of June, the dew
which fell on the plant the evening before was efficacious in
preserving the eyes from disease. So the plant was collected,
dipped in oil, and thus transformed into a balm for every wound."
Here it is a naturalized, not a native, immigrant. A blooming
plant, usually with many sterile shoots about its base, has an
unkempt, untidy look; the seed capsules and the brown petals of
withered flowers remaining among the bright yellow buds through a
long season. No nectar is secreted by the St. John's-worts,
therefore only pollen collectors visit them regularly, and
occasionally cross-fertilize the blossoms, which are best
adapted, however, to pollinate themselves.
The SHRUBBY ST. JOHN'S-WORT (H. prolificum) bears yellow
blossoms, about half an inch across, which are provided with
stamens so numerous, the many flowered terminal clusters have a
soft, feathery effect. In the axils of the oblong, opposite
leaves are tufts of smaller ones, the stout stems being often
concealed under a wealth of foliage. Sandy or rocky places from
New Jersey southward best suit this low, dense, diffusely
branched shrub which blooms prolifically from July to September.
Farther north, and westward to Iowa, the GREAT or GIANT ST.
JOHN'S-WORT (H. Ascyron) brightens the banks of streams at
midsummer with large blossoms, each on a long footstalk in a
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