There are about ten species of St John’s wort growing in the UK and a few others that are not called St John’s wort but are still in the genus, Hypericum, such as the low growing bush called Tutsan.
They are all quite similar and it is the presence or not of tiny black dots on the edges of the petals and the sepals and sometimes the leaves which are the key to their identification. Fortunately in terms of species which might grow in the woodlands of the Wye valley and Monmouthshire we only have 4 species to worry about. This one, Pale St John’s wort, Trailing St Johns wort and Tutsan.
Slender St John’s wort is probably the most attractive as the petals are quite a rich yellow but underneath they are orange, almost red, so when you have some flowers in bloom and some in bud you get this attractive red/orange/yellow display. Also if you look closely the petals are edged with red and black dots and the sepals are edged with just black dots. Whilst we are on the subject of dots the leaves of this species have little translucent dots randomly over their surface.
The flowers appear in June and are over by July, just the seed capsules remaining in this month. Below is a photo of it growing in our bit of Ninewells wood, taken on the 18th June this year (2017) The photo above was taken some years ago and that was in France.
This species is included in the woodland wildflowers of he Wye valley because it will grow in open woodland but also it is found on heathland and scrub areas. Now our bit of woodland has had a checkered history and it is difficult to piece it all together but at one stage it was probably heathland and was part of a vast area to the west of the river Wye, running down from Trellech towards Devauden and eventually Wentwood forest and known as Wyeswood Common. This is the opion of George Peterken who wrote the New Naturalist book about the Wye Valley. (well worth a read, especially if you live in this area) and I refer you to a post about this which I published earlier.
St John’s wort is used a lot in herbal remedies it is supposed to relieve depression, here is a free advert for some pills. Please note, I am not recommending them and I am not decrying them. You make up your own mind. And a link to their web site, just in case you feel the need.
Hypericin, together with Hyperfolin, are major constituents of St. John’s Wort plants, and both owe their names to the scientific name for St. John’s Worts. They are both in the group of organic chemicals known as NAPTHODIANTHRONES.
St John’s Wort was named after St John the Baptist as the red spots on the petals of this flower were a reminder of the spots of blood which fell at his beheading. The translucent spots on the leaves were said to be the tears wept for him on his death.
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.