Scientific name: Paris quadrifolia
Herb-Paris has four oval leaves set in a cross, with an understated crown of yellow-green flowers rising from the middle. This makes it quite a distinctive plant of ancient and damp woodlands on chalky soils.
StatisticsHeight: up to 35cm
When to seeMay to June
AboutHerb-Paris is a perennial plant of damp woodlands, mainly on chalky soils, and its crown of understated, green flowers can be found blooming among bluebells and primroses in May and June.
With its whorl of four egg-shaped leaves, it is known as the 'herb of equality' because all of its parts are considered equal and harmonious. This symmetry appealed to medieval herbalists, so it was used both in marriage rituals and to guard against witches.
How to identifyThe four broad, oval leaves of herb-Paris, set in a cross, are quite distinctive. Rising from the middle, an upright stem bears a flower: a star of four narrow, yellow-green petals and four green sepals, topped by a dark berry (ovary) and a crown of eight golden stamens.
DistributionFound throughout mainland UK.
Did you know?Certain plants are used as indicators of how old a woodland is, although these plants may differ from region to region, simply because habitats, soils and conditions change the flora present. Herb-Paris is used as an indicator of ancient woodlands on moist chalky soils and is very scarce in Scotland and West Wales, and absent from the extreme south-west of England.
The Wildlife Trusts manage many woodland nature reserves sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of wildlife. A mix of coppicing, scrub-cutting, ride maintenance and non-intervention all help woodland wildlife to thrive.