Herbs or shrubs with opposite or whorled leaves, often marked with pellucid dots (glands). Flowers usually in terminal cymes, regular. Sepals 5, rarely 4. Petals 5, rarely 4, usually twisted in the bud. Stamens indefinite. Ovary usually 3-5 celled, with as many styles; placentation axillary. Seeds exalbuminous.

Hypericum is the only European genus.

Hypericum L. St. John's Wort

Leaves opposite and entire, and no stipules. Flowers regular, usually yellow. Sepals 5. Petals 5, hypogynous. Stamens indefinite, united at the base into 3 or 5 bundles. Capsule more or less divided into 3 or 5 cells by as many placentae projecting from the sides to the axis, and usually opening in 3 or 5 valves.

An extensive genus, particularly abundant in Southern Europe, Western Asia, and N. America, but represented also in the tropics and in the southern hemisphere.

Hypericum Coris L

Glabrous. Stems 6-12 inches high, slender, erect; leaves in whorls of 3 or 4, linear, with edges recurved, spotted with glands. Flowers yellow, streaked with red, rather large, in a short corymb. Sepals linear-oblong, obtuse, glandular ciliate. Petals 4-5 times longer than sepals. Capsule ovoid, twice as long as calyx.

Dry hills and rocks, especially on limestone up to 5000 feet; local. June to August.


Maritime Alps, Var, Basses-Alpes, Italy, Tyrol, very rare in Switzerland (as near Stans, etc.).

This beautiful dwarf species is easily cultivated on limestone rocks, and forms a showy mass of gold.

Hypericum Nummularium L

Stem ascending, 6-10 inches high, glabrous like the whole plant. Leaves roundish-cordate, the lower ones shortly petioled, smooth, pale below. Flowers large, usually 3-5 on a stem. Petals round, 3-4 times longer than calyx, crenate, pale yellow. Sepals blunt, serrated, glandular-ciliated. Capsule ovoid, slightly passing the calyx, and with 3 prominent styles.

Stony, damp places in calcareous mountains; rare. June to August.


Alps of Savoy and Piedmont, Northern Spain, Central and Western Pyrenees.

Can be planted in a sunny place on a bank, with plenty of sandy soil for its rampant roots to penetrate.

Hypericum Richeri VILL. (Plate XIII)

Glabrous. Stem erect, a foot high or more, almost round. Leaves oval or oval-lanceolate, opposite, edged with black spots, slightly clasping the stem. Flowers large, yellow, in a few-flowered corymb. Petals three times longer than the calyx, spotted with black. Sepals oblong-lanceolate, acuminate, finely but strongly toothed at the edge. Capsule ovoid, slightly longer than the calyx. A handsome species.

Pastures and mountain woods up to 6000 feet, as at Lautaret, in Dauphiny, and above Argentiere in Haute Savoie; very local. June to August.


Jura, Savoy, rare in Switzerland, Pyrenees, Central and Southern Europe.

Hypericum Quadrangulum L. (H. Maculatum Crantz). (Plate XIII)

Readily known by the 4 prominent angles of the stem. Leaves ovate, about an inch long, clasping the stem at the base, with many pellucid nerves and dots, and a few black spots round the margin. Sepals lanceolate, pointed. Petals usually without any black dots.

Pastures and waste places in mountainous regions up to the sub-alpine zone. June to August.


Central and Northern Europe, Pyrenees, Alps, Western Siberia. British.

In Britain it grows mostly in damp meadows.

In the Alps, and especially in the granitic Alps, the flowers of this species are sometimes pale yellow, as in the plate. The figure was drawn from a specimen obtained from Le Planet, above Argentine, at the head of the Chamonix valley, at about 4600 feet.

Schinz and Keller give an Alpine sub-species, eumaculatum Schinz et Thellung, with rounded sepals, and erosum Schinz, with sepals toothed or irregularly laciniate, but sometimes acute. The later sub-species frequents the Swiss plains, and the mountain region.