28 April 2010

Herb Paris (Paris quadrifolia)

This ancient woodland indicator species is often elusive, camouflaged in a sea of Dog's Mercury. But many of the Gower Ash Woodlands have it and it is in flower now. It's a fabulous plant with a memorable name. But the apparent reference to the French capital is misleading. The name Paris here is derived from the latin, pares, which alludes to the symmetry of the leaves (in 2 pairs). Occasionally, however, you'll find an individual with 5 or more leaves. Where you find it, there's often a group of individuals that arise from an underground rhizome and individual clones probably live a very long time. The fruit is a small berry, but it rarely generates from seed. For that reason its dispersal abilities are poor, which makes it a good indicator species. It is rather rare in Wales and is more or less confined to woodlands on basic soils (i.e. limestone). It likes shade much more than bluebell or wood anemone and, unlike those two common species, it usually shows a negative response to coppicing. Herb Paris is closely related to the wake robins (Trillium species) which occur in North American forests. (Photograph and notes by Charles Hipkin).


Barry Stewart said...

Definitely one I'll be looking out for next time I find myself in suitable habitat. I saw a very big spread of this species under conifers in Ilston Cwm a few years back now, which I must revisit...

Nigel Ajax Lewis said...

Probably the most “accessible” stand of Herb Paris on Gower is immediately adjacent to the south Gower Road (A4118) in the northern section of Kilvrough Manor Woods, but perhaps not on a Bank Holiday week end.


Limited car parking is available in the small quarry/layby and the plants are no more than 25 metres to the west towards the Gower Inn adjacent to the road.

Being a zoologist by inclination I had not made the family connection between Herb Paris and Trillium species although I should have done just by looking at their structure. Which brings back memories of see Trillium in flower as part of the spring ground flora of ancient Japanese woodlands in Hokkaido in the company of Asian Skunk Cabbage [white rather than yellow] and small clumps of Japanese Knotweed. The Japanese Knotweed is a minor component of this assemblage in Hokkaido as that island has a curious climate involving 163 days of zero or subzero temperatures annually, except around the volcanoes where it is permanently spring.