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Herb Paris is an odd looking plant, it has just four leaves which are aligned opposite each other in two pairs, thus Paris, so nothing to do with the capital of France.

In this photo you can see if you look carefully some  leaves of Dogs Mercury, Wood anemone and violet also obviously Blue bell. These are typical companions for Herb Paris, it is only found in ancient woodlands and often with Dogs Mercury, which sometimes obscures it. You do not often get a big dense patch of Herb Paris like you do with Dogs Mercury. It is normally in small groups but the distinctive leaf pattern makes it fairly easy to spot.  Just occasionally you do get one with 3 or even 5 leaves. As in the photo here.

Along with several other woodland  plants it seems to benefit from living in coppice with standard woodland. The effect of the coppicing cycle is to cause a burst of growth in the few years immediately after coppicing and then it declines as the coppiced bushes grow back up and the shade increases. However the shade also eliminates competitive species such as brambles and nettles.

The other peculiarity about this plant is its flower which is not spectacular but is also very regular, it has 8 stamens, 4 stigmas and 4 seed capsules. All very regular and symmetrical. This balance and symmetry led to it being used in the past for wedding ceremony’s where a marriage was expected to be a balanced and equal relationship… if you are lucky!

The 4 larger green appendages are sepals, the petals are quite narrow (filiform) and again there are 4. Then there are 8 stamens with brown stalks and yellow where the pollen is and finally there are 4 dark brown stigmas. In this photo it looks like 3 stigmas, but two are stuck together. It flowers in May and June and is normally associated with alkaline and damp conditions.

The plant produces just one dark purple fruit in the centre which some what r esembles a blueberry. However it is quite poisonous and evidently tastes quite bad, so people are unlikely to eat and swallow it.

To check out other wildflowers found in the woods of the Wye valley and Ninewells wood click Woodland Wildflowers of the Wye valley and Monmouthshire.

 

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