1. Family: Melanthiaceae Batsch ex Borkh.
    1. Genus: Paris L.
      1. Paris quadrifolia L.

        The scientific and common names for herb paris are derived from the Latin par, meaning pair, referring to the symmetry of the pairs of leaves and floral parts (not the city Paris, as has commonly been assumed and the reason why paris is sometimes capitalised in its common name) and quadrifolia meaning four leaves. The leaves are positioned in opposed pairs, and the flowers are wispy and inconspicuous and have a crown of golden-yellow stamens, making Paris quadrifolia a distinctive woodland plant.

    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description

    The scientific and common names for herb paris are derived from the Latin par, meaning pair, referring to the symmetry of the pairs of leaves and floral parts (not the city Paris, as has commonly been assumed and the reason why paris is sometimes capitalised in its common name) and quadrifolia meaning four leaves. The leaves are positioned in opposed pairs, and the flowers are wispy and inconspicuous and have a crown of golden-yellow stamens, making Paris quadrifolia a distinctive woodland plant.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    The native range of Paris quadrifolia comprises the boreal and temperate areas of Europe and extends eastwards to western Asia, western Siberia and the Himalaya.

    Description

    Overview: A perennial woodland herb, 25-40 cm tall, with a rhizome (underground stem).

    Leaves: Four (often 3-8) deep green leaves, broadly obovate, measuring 6.0-10.0 × 2.0-5.5 cm. The leaves are in a single whorl at the top of the stem and are stalkless or with only a short stalk.

    Flowers: Four broad green sepals and four narrow yellow-green petals, topped with a crown of 8 (sometimes up to 12) golden-yellow stamens. The ovary has four chambers and four protruding styles.

    Fruits: Black, spherical berry, approximately 13 mm in diameter, containing on average 34 seeds.

    Seeds: Dark brown, egg-shaped, 2.5×1.5 mm.

    'Herba paris'

    The common name 'herba paris' was first used in 1544 by Italian botanist Pierandrea Matthioli in his Italian edition of commentaries on Dioscorides'  Materia Medica . Herb paris also appears in Gerard's Herbal of 1636 as an antidote to highly toxic substances such as arsenic or mercury. Other common names allude to its black berry (devil-in-a-bush) or to its connections with love - the four leaves are paired like lovers and also bear a resemblance to the loops of the true lover's knot.

    Threats and conservation

    Paris quadrifolia is in decline in Europe due to a reduction in broadleaved woodland, its primary habitat. Native woodland is frequently cleared to make way for conifer plantations and construction of new roads and buildings, and although this is often mitigated by the planting of new woodlands, herb paris has limited dispersal abilities and is slow to colonise new areas. The conservation of ancient broadleaved woodland is therefore key to preventing further decline of the species.

    A genetic giant

    Paris quadrifolia  has a large quantity of DNA in its cells (with a 2C DNA value of 60 picograms) but scientists at Kew's Jodrell Laboratory recently discovered that the related species  Paris japonica  has the largest genome on record, with well over twice this amount, at a staggering 152 picograms.

    Uses

    Paris quadrifolia is cultivated as an ornamental and makes an attractive addition to a woodland garden. Its medicinal use is almost exclusively confined to homeopathy.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

    Two collections of  Paris quadrifolia seeds are held in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

    Cultivation

    Herb paris requires a neutral or only slightly acidic soil that is deep, moist, well drained and humus-rich. It will do best in a partly shaded position where the soil stays moist throughout the year.

    It spreads vegetatively by rhizomes, which can be divided to propagate the plant. Alternatively, seed can be collected and sown in containers immediately after harvesting.

    This species at Kew

    Herb paris can be seen growing in Kew's Woodland Garden (at the southern end of the Plant Family Beds).

    Dried and alcohol-preserved specimens of Paris quadrifolia are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment.

    Further details, including images, are available online in Kew's Herbarium Catalogue.

    View details and images

    Distribution
    United Kingdom
    Ecology
    Moist woodland and other damp, shady places, on calcareous soils.
    Conservation
    Not assessed at an international level; Least Concern in the UK, according to IUCN Red List criteria.
    Hazards

    All parts are poisonous; ingestion can induce diarrhoea, headache, nausea, vomiting, stomach ache and vertigo.

    Images

    Distribution

    Native to:

    Altay, Austria, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Buryatiya, Central European Rus, Chita, Corse, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East European Russia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Inner Mongolia, Irkutsk, Italy, Kazakhstan, Krasnoyarsk, Manchuria, Mongolia, Netherlands, North Caucasus, North European Russi, Northwest European R, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sardegna, South European Russi, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Transcaucasus, Turkey, Tuva, Ukraine, West Siberia, Xinjiang, Yakutskiya, Yugoslavia

    Common Names

    English
    Herb paris

    Paris quadrifolia L. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
    Melville, R., United Kingdom 5484.000
    Fay, M.F. [MFF107], United Kingdom K000696452

    First published in Sp. Pl.: 367 (1753)

    Accepted by

    • Rico, E. & al. (eds.) in Castroviejo, S. & al. (eds.) (2013). Flora Iberica 20: 1-651. Real Jardín Botánico, CSIC, Madrid.
    • Dimopoulos, P., Raus, T., Bergmeier, E., Constantinidis, T., Iatrou, G., Kokkini, S., Strid, A., & Tzanoudakis, D. (2013). Vascular plants of Greece. An annotated checklist: 1-372. Botanic gardens and botanical museum Berlin-Dahlem, Berlin and Hellenic botanical society, Athens.
    • Özhatay, F.N., Kültür, S. & Gürdal, M.B. (2011). Check-list of additional taxa to the supplement Flora of Turkey V Turkish Journal of Botany 35: 589-624.
    • Aver'ianov, L.V. & al. (2006). Illyustrirovannyi opredelitel' rastenii Leningradskoi oblasti: 1-799. Nauka, Moskva.
    • Takhtajan, A.L. (ed.) (2006). Conspectus Florae Caucasi 2: 1-466. Editio Universitatis Petropolitanae.
    • Malyschev L.I. & Peschkova , G.A. (eds.) (2001). Flora of Siberia 4: 1-238. Scientific Publishers, Inc., Enfield, Plymouth.
    • Grubov, V.I. (2001). Key to the Vascular Plants of Mongolia 1: 1-411. Science Publishers, Inc. Enfield, USA. Plymouth, U.K.
    • Zhengyi, W. & Raven, P.H. (eds.) (2000). Flora of China 24: 1-431. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis.
    • Tutin, T.G. & al. (eds.) (1980). Flora Europaea 5: 1-452. Cambridge University Press.
    • Pavlov, N.V. (ed.) (1958). Flora Kazakhstana 2: 1-290. Alma-Ata, Izd-vo Akademii nauk Kazakhskoi SSR.
    • Komarov, V.L. (ed.) (1935). Flora SSSR 4: 1-586. Izdatel'stov Akademii Nauk SSSR, Leningrad.

    Literature

    Kew Species Profiles
    • Alpine Garden Society (2012). Plant Portraits: Paris quadrifolia.
    • Angiosperm Phylogeny Website (2012).
    • Biological Records Centre (BRC) (2012). Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora: Paris quadrifolia. Available at: http://www.brc.ac.uk/plantatlas/index.php?q=plant/paris-quadrifolia (accessed 10 December 2012).
    • IUCN (2012). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. < www.iucnredlist.org> (accessed 10 December 2012).
    • JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee) (2012). The Vascular Plant Red Data List for Great Britain: Conservation Designations for UK Taxa.
    • WCSP (2012). World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet:
    • Stace, C. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles, 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
    • The Plant List (2010). Paris quadrifolia.
    • Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009). An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 161: 105–121.
    • Chase, M. W. & Reveal, J. L. (2009). A phylogenetic classification of the land plants to accompany APG III. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 161: 122–127.
    • Gledhill, D. (2008). The Names of Plants, 4th Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
    • Jacquemyn, H., Brys, R. & Hutchings, M. J. (2008). Biological Flora of the British Isles: Paris quadrifolia L. Journal of Ecology 96: 833–844.
    • Mabberley, D. J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: a Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses, 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
    • Mabey, R. (1996). Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London.
    • Davies, D. (1995). Enwau Cymraeg ar Blanhigio: Welsh Names of Plants. National Museums and Galleries of Wales.
    • Tutin, T. G., Heywood, V. H., Burges, N. A., Moore, D. M., Valentine, D. H., Walters, S. M & Webb, P. A. (1980). Flora Europaea, Volume 5 Alismataceae to Orchidaceae (Monocotyledones). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
    • Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI). Maps Scheme.
    Kew Backbone Distributions
    • Özhatay, F.N., Kültür, S. & Gürdal, M.B. (2011). Check-list of additional taxa to the supplement Flora of Turkey V Turkish Journal of Botany 35: 589-624.
    • Aver'ianov, L.V. & al. (2006). Illyustrirovannyi opredelitel' rastenii Leningradskoi oblasti: 1-799. Nauka, Moskva.
    • Malyschev L.I. & Peschkova , G.A. (eds.) (2001). Flora of Siberia 4: 1-238. Scientific Publishers, Inc., Enfield, Plymouth.
    • Grubov, V.I. (2001). Key to the Vascular Plants of Mongolia 1: 1-411. Science Publishers, Inc. Enfield, USA. Plymouth, U.K.
    • Zhengyi, W. & Raven, P.H. (eds.) (2000). Flora of China 24: 1-431. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis.
    • Tutin, T.G. & al. (eds.) (1980). Flora Europaea 5: 1-452. Cambridge University Press.
    • Pavlov, N.V. (ed.) (1958). Flora Kazakhstana 2: 1-290. Alma-Ata, Izd-vo Akademii nauk Kazakhskoi SSR.
    • Komarov, V.L. (ed.) (1935). Flora SSSR 4: 1-586. Izdatel'stov Akademii Nauk SSSR, Leningrad.

    Sources

    Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
    'The Herbarium Catalogue, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet http://www.kew.org/herbcat [accessed on Day Month Year]'. Please enter the date on which you consulted the system.

    Kew Backbone Distributions
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2018. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2018. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0