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National Hypericum Collection

With their array of yellow flowers, Wakehurst's hypericums dominate the Specimen Beds, south of the Mansion, at the height of summer.
Yellow flower of St John's Wort

Did you know?

  • Extracts from Hypericum plants are used in herbal medicines to treat depression.
  • Hypericum plants often grow as weeds in pastures, where they are a hazard for livestock. They contain a photosensitizing agent that can lead to severe sunburn, and have also been known to cause abortions.

What is a National Collection?

Loss of variety within horticulture in the 1970s led to the foundation of the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens (NCCPG). The Council set out to conserve the rich garden flora of the British Isles by forming ‘national plant collections’. The idea is that each collection is as complete a representation of a genus or section of a genus as possible, incorporating both species and cultivars. Today, there are some 650 National Plant Collections representing around 350 genera. Wakehurst Place holds four National Collections.

About hypericums

The genus Hypericum, commonly known as St John’s wort, comprises some 350 species of flowering plants. Ranging from small annual or perennial herbaceous herbs, such as Hypericum perforatum to shrubs and large trees, including East Africa’s Hypericum revolution, they are found in all parts of the world except tropical lowlands, deserts and polar regions. The flowers are always yellow, but range from the pale primrose shade of Hypericum bellum to the rich glossy gold of Hypericum ‘Hidcote’.

Things to look out for

Wakehurst’s collection represents over half the shrubby species of Hypericum currently in cultivation (within the sections Androsaemum and Ascyreia). It exhibits many garden-worthy specimens that are not well known. These include: Hypericum bellum, a dense and compact plant with downy leaves; Hypericum pseudohenryi, which has pink-tinged stems; and Hypericum subsessile, a relict species from China that displays rich red fruiting capsules in late summer.