We have very much enjoyed all the wildflowers growing here on the farm throughout the spring, and we’re continually amazed that new ones keep popping up, even in the fierce heat of summer. They often grow in multitudes, so that we’ll have a yard full of tiny pink or yellow flowers. Right now, there are large areas of white Queen Anne’s lace in the garden. It’s very easy to just admire them for how beautiful they look in large numbers, but many of them have hidden features that you can’t see until you get very close and give them some individual attention. One example is St. John’s Wort.
It is growing all over the farm, but mostly in large clumps in the orchard. It’s very pretty and adds some color to the brown grasses. Bruce took a sprig of it in to the Master Gardener’s Plant Clinic to find out what it was. After it was identified I looked it up and found out that it has some very interesting features that you wouldn’t notice at first glance, because, wow, look at the bright yellow color and the fireworks-like stamens.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is also known as Klamathweed or Goatweed. It is widely used to treat depression and is known to be anti-inflammatory, astringent, and antiseptic. The flowers can be collected and infused in EVOO by leaving it sit in the sun for 4-6 weeks. After the flowers are strained out, the oil will be red and should be stored in the refrigerator. It is used as a healing salve. St. John’s Wort is a nervine, which calms the nerve endings in an injury or trauma, so the oil will have a mild pain reliever quality.
So, that’s quite interesting, but even more interesting is how the plant looks. I had to use a magnifying lens to see it, but the flower petals have serrated edges with small black dots on the serrations, which are black glands.
In addition, the leaves have translucent (pellucid) glands, hence the Latin name perforatum. When held up to the light it appears as if the leaf is perforated. The glands on the leaves, stems and petals contain a light-sensitive compound called hypericin.
I hadn’t given this flower much thought beyond that it was yellow and there was a lot of it in the garden, but I’m glad that I did take the time to look it up and find out that there was much more going on. That’s the thing about the wildflowers–they are abundant and pretty in masses of color, but if you take the time to study the individuals, you will be rewarded with some fascinating discoveries.
To be fair though, this interesting plant is quite devastating in the west. It is invasive and spreading rapidly. It is especially dangerous to livestock. If ingested it can cause photosensitization because of the compound hypericin, which can lead to skin ulceration, necrosis, and edema.
I suppose we should go out and rip it out of the ground since we do have our lovely cattle neighbors.
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
― W.B. Yeats