hairy saint john's wort


Значение термина hairy saint john's wort в knolik


hairy saint john's wort - HAIRY SAINT JOHN'S WORT (Hypericum hirsutum)
hairy saint john's wort - Once upon a time the St. John's Wort was a name to conjure with. It was "a plant of power," and "under the celestial sign Leo and the dominion of the Sun. It may be," continues the old physician (Culpepper) scornfully, "if you meet a Papist he will tell you, especially if he be a lawyer, that St. John made it over to him by a letter of attorney." Anyway, within it rested most mystic powers which were invoked on that midsummer night of magic, June 23. On that Eve of St. John the wise propitiated the powers that be, and young men and maidens wove for themselves garlands of St. John's Wort and vervain - another "plant of power" - and lighted fires, and then, dancing round the fires, cast their wreaths therein as they prayed for good fortune through the coming year. Doubtless the custom was the survival from pagan times of some sort of propitiatory sacrifice.

To the St. John's Wort, too, was attributed the power of warding off the spells of witches, and of keeping at bay evil spirits; decoctions made from it were believed to be wonderfully efficacious in restoring sanity to the mad and in relieving the fits of the epileptic. Therefore was it called "Fuga dæmonium," or the " Devil's bane," as it acted so effectually as a devil chaser. In Saxony custom has long decreed that each village maiden must seek the plant on St. John's Eve.

"Thou silver glow-worm, oh lend me thy light,
I must gather the mystic St. John's Wort to-night;
The wonderful herb, whose leaf will decide
If the coming year shall make me a bride."
She must then take it home and stick it in the wall of her bed-chamber. If it retained its freshness for a while she would be a happy bride within a year, but woe betide her -

"If it drooped its head, that plant of power,
And died the mute death of the voiceless flower,"

for it was well known that in such cases -

"They closed the cold grave o'er the maid's cold clay
On the day that was meant for her bridal day."

Now, there are no fewer than eleven species of St. John's Wort growing wild in our fields, hedgerows and woods, all showing the family traits very distinctly. The one commonly known as the St. John's Wort is Hypericum perforatum, but there is no doubt that country folk were not very nice in their distinction between the different species in olden days, and all must have shared the halo of magic. As the witches and spirits were not botanists either, no harm was done by this generalisation. The plant pictured in our plate is the Hairy St. John's Wort, the lover of woods and thickets; it is chiefly distinguished by having a downy coat on its stems and along the veins on the under-side of its leaves. Its leaves differ from H. perforatum in having little stalks - those are stalkless - but are like them in being marked all over the surface by pellucid dots. If a leaf be held up to the light these little clear spots can be seen looking almost like perforations. Really they are glands containing an oily, aromatic liquid, and it is suggested that the plant develops them among the cells of its tender green leaves to make the latter unpalatable to browsing animals or leaf-loving insects, and hence protects itself from the not impossible fate of being eaten off the face of the earth. These spots caused the St. John's Wort to be known as the herb of war; as a poet said long ago:

"Hypericum was there, that herb of war,
Pierced through with wounds, and marked with many a scar."

Our picture well shows the handsome pyramid of pale yellow flowers that the plant bears. Now the individual flowers of a St. John's Wort are remarkable in that, to a large extent, their beauty lies in their stamens. The first thing that strikes one about them is the large number of golden spikes, each tipped with a golden knob, that form so great a part of each flower and are so lovely a feature. They make all the greater show because they are not all the same length and are gathered into bunches. In some species they are in five bunches, in some they are in three, as in the plant illustrated. Everyone is familiar with the Large-flowered Hypericum (H. calycinum) of our gardens, and with the charm that lies in its multitude of graceful golden stamens. These are the attracting force in a St. John's Wort; the plant says unmistakably to the insect world, "Though I do not provide any honey for you yet here is abundance of pollen for your food." And the insects respond by visiting in large numbers; over forty different kinds have been counted by one observer. The little they eat of that abundance is as nothing to that which they carry away on their bodies, and thus do the plants pass on pollen from flower to flower.

But if the stamens are the most conspicuous, the five green sepals which form the protecting cup are the most curious part of the flower, for they are edged with a row of very noticeable black dots. These, too, are glands, and are no doubt intended as a line of defence against little creeping insects which might steal the pollen without making any compensating return to the plant. A flower - bud with its closely enfolding green sepals edged with black dots, and surmounted by the pale yellow cone of wrapped-up petals, is distinctly remarkable.

The petals are twice as long as the sepals; they are narrow, and stand like a golden five-rayed star behind the stamen clusters. Above the petals, in the centre of the flower, is the three-celled seed-case, each cell surmounted by a long column. It has already been pointed out that the stamens are of unequal length; now the shortest are on the outside, the longest on the inside, and these longest ones are the same length as the ovary columns. All the stamens do not ripen together, but the shortest and outermost set free their pollen first, then the median and the medium-sized ones, and, finally, just before the flower withers, the innermost long ones. These turn to the centre, and their pollen necessarily falls on the ovary columns by their side, and hence will fertilise them, if that has not already been done by pollen from other flowers. Fertilisation completed, the columns wither and drop off, and the fruit forms as a three celled capsule containing many little seeds, which have to trust to the wind to jerk them ultimately out of their home.

St. John's Worts are to be found in flower from the end of June to October, and they are classed in a small family - the Hypericineæ.

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