Hypericum is a very large genus of about 400 species. H. perforatum is a hardy, partially woody perennial, an upright growing, unpleasant smelling, clumping plant that can reach 1 m high. Its small, smooth, oval leaves have numerous tiny oil glands, borne in opposite pairs along the stems. The small golden yellow flowers are borne in large dense cymes in midsummer. The small, ovoid seed capsule contains round black seed. The crushed flowers ooze a red, bloodlike pigment containing hypericin. Do not confuse St. John's wort with the many ornamental Hypericum varieties grown in gardens.

• Position This plant is easy to grow in a well-drained, moist to fairly dry soil in full sun to light shade. It's recommended for ornamental meadows, but considered a weed toxic to livestock; it's under statutory control in Australia and New Zealand.

• Propagation Sow seed as soon as it is ripe in autumn (under protection in colder areas), or in the following spring. Germination can take up to 3 months. You can also divide the runners either in autumn or spring.

• Maintenance It is a strong grower requiring little tending.

• Pests and diseases None worth noting.

• Harvesting and storing Harvest the flowering heads in early summer, when buds commence opening, and dry them.

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