Stem. - Much branched. Leaves. - Small, opposite, somewhat oblong, with pellucid dots. Flowers. - Yellow, numerous, in leafy clusters. Calyx. - Of five sepals. Corolla. - Of five bright yellow petals, somewhat spotted with black. Stamens. - Indefinite in number. Pistil. - One, with three spreading styles.
"Too well known as a pernicious weed which it is difficult to extirpate," is the scornful notice which the botany gives to this plant whose bright yellow flowers are noticeable in waste fields and along roadsides nearly all summer. Its rank, rapid growth proves very exhausting to the soil, and every New England farmer wishes it had remained where it rightfully belongs - on the other side of the water.
Perhaps more superstitions have clustered about the St. John's-wort than about any other plant on record. It was formerly gathered on St. John's eve, and was hung at the doors and windows as a safeguard against thunder and evil spirits. A belief prevailed that on this night the soul had power to leave the body and visit the spot where it would be finally summoned from its earthly habitation, hence the all-night vigils which were observed at that time.
Plate L. Common St. John's-Wort.- H. perforatum
The wonderful herb whose leaf will decide If the coming year shall make me a bride, is the St. John's-wort, and the maiden's fate is favorably forecast by the healthy growth and successful blossoming of the plant which she has accepted as typical of her future.
In early times poets and physicians alike extolled its properties. An ointment was made of its blossoms, and one of its early names was "balm-of-the-warrior's-wound." It was considered so efficacious a remedy for melancholia that it was termed " fuga daemonum." Very possibly this name gave rise to the general idea that it was powerful in dispelling evil spirits.