Education Outdoors

In Bloom: Shrubby St. John’s Wort

In Bloom: St. John's Wort

Hypericum prolificum. Anne Holmes, artist

By Suzanne Wodek

Hypericum prolificum, commonly called shrubby St. John’s Wort, is a compact native deciduous, rounded shrub with an erect habit that typically grows 1’ to 4’ tall. It naturally grows on rocky ground, dry wooded slopes and in sandy soils. You can also site this shrub in average to medium well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. It blooms on new wood and should be pruned in early spring.

The genus name comes from the Greek words “hyper,” meaning “above,” and “prolificum,” in reference to the many flower stamens. Plants of the Hypericum genus were apparently gathered and burned to ward off evil spirits on the eve of St. John’s Day, thus giving rise to the genus common name of St. John’s Wort.

This lovely shrub is deer- and rabbit-resistant. The secret is a toxic substance in its tissues that irritate the gastrointestinal tracts of mammals. As a host plant for a variety of caterpillars, St. John’s Wort is attractive to a wide array of pollinators. Bumblebees are especially fond of the bright yellow flowers. The fruits attract birds as well.

Native Americans extracted an active ingredient from the leaves, twigs and seeds to treat flesh wounds and ulcers and to help with passing kidney stones. Modern medicine recognizes an extract of St. John’s Wort for the treatment of mild to moderate depression.

Upcoming Events at the Botanical Gardens

Fire-Wise Landscaping with Jessica Hocz
Sunday, July 19, 2–4 p.m.

Naturalists Walk with Gardens manager Jay Kranyik
Sunday, August 2, 9–11:30 a.m.

Check our website for complete information about educational programs this month. All programs are $15 for members and $20 for non-members, unless otherwise stated. Participants must pre-register and pre-pay for classes by calling 828.252.5190.

The Botanical Gardens, located at 151 W. T. Weaver Boulevard in Asheville, is a nonprofit organization housing a collection of plants native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated and memberships are encouraged. Learn more at

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