Herb Paris

 In Environment

Herb Paris qualifies as a very strange plant. The latin name of Paris quadrifolia highlights its rather strange leaf formation. I believe it to be very poisionous but I have not tested it. Google rather hedges its bets and suggests that it is probably poisionous if taken by mouth. I am unsure how else one might take it! The experts appear to find it widely across Europe in damp woods and mostly on chalk or limestone soils. That said, I have never found it even though I am a frequenter of damp woods. It is an indicator of old environments and one would expect to find the less common plants in association with it. Bluebells are one of those plants which is rather odd because I might not expect bluebells on calcium rich soils.

An odd garden plant

I need to explain why I have the plant in my garden. It was given to me, in a small pot, by a fellow gardener. I read up on its preference but damp woodland is rather scarce in my garden. Consequently, I put it alongside the house, the side facing north. This was under a layer of ground bark and, bluntly, I gave it little chance. Whatever, it grew a little in year one and sometime after flowering, disappeared. Imagine my suprise this year, after a wet winter, when it popped up looking very pleased with itself. Its numbers had multiplied, and it duly flowered. You can see how strange the flower is in my photo but I won’t be placing it in a vase anytime soon.

Herb paris

The four opposite leaves have a long history. The flower over four leaves was picked and mounted on men’s hats. It was called the true lovers knot because the hat wearer was guaranteed love. Heavens knows how they found the plant. It would be spring, of course, and a young man’s fancy. It was also a medicine to cure headaches and even madness but only if handled by somebody who knew what they were doing. After the flower, a black berry develops and can be ground down, also for medicinal use. I think I will just admire it while it flowers and remain incredulous at the diversity of nature.

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