This plant’s name has nothing to do with the city of Paris; its name comes from the Latin word ‘par’ or pair and refers to the symmetry of both leaves and flowers (unusually these are green). Quadrifolia just means that it has four leaves. It is a native of broad-leaved woodland ranging from Europe to West Asia, Siberia and the Himalayas so is in decline in the wild and Kew’s Millenium Seed Bank at Wakehurst has preserved two collections of its seed. Kew lists it as a poisonous plant although, interestingly, Gerard’s Herbal of 1636 recommended it as an antidote to arsenic or mercury poisoning. It has a black berry which gave rise to its common name of ‘devil-in-a-bush’. Interestingly the flowers are hermaphrodite (contain both male and females) and are pollinated by flies and midges.
Cultivation: the clumps will appreciate a protective mulch in late autumn. Sow seeds in late summer as soon as they are ripe and put into a cold frame. They are notoriously slow to germinate.