Paris quadrifolia is its scientific name and you’d think quadrifolia would mean this plant had four leaves but no one told the plant that! Herb-Paris, as it’s more commonly known, can actually have between 4 and 8 leaves. It’s not its leaves that Herb-Paris is most admired for though, it’s its stunning solitary flower, a true masterpiece of Nature.
Herb-Paris is a perennial plant and can be found in both cool and temperate areas of Europe. In Britain you’re most likely to find it in the damp shade of ancient woodlands on calcareous soils, though sadly it has declined significantly over the last century due to the destruction of many broad-leaved woodlands in favour of conifer plantations. As Herb-Paris has proven to be very slow at colonising replanted woodlands, the only hope for its survival is the conservation of those ancient woodlands that still exist.
Though all parts of this plant are considered poisonous, it was used in various ways in traditional medicine: it was considered to be an antidote for mercury and arsenic poisoning, its root was used as an emetic, and the juice of its berry as a treatment for inflammation of the eyes. I think I’ll stick to conventional medicine and leave this beautiful herb to be admired by all who are lucky enough to see it.