Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis) is commonly found in the shaded understory of hedges and on hedge banks. Despite what the name suggests, it is in fact a member of the spurge (Euphorbia) family and not related to other plants in the mercury family. It gets its name because it looks like mercuries but is extremely poisonous. The term ‘dogs’ refers to ‘bad’ or ‘inedible’ because of the plants toxicity.

Leaves can be found throughout the year while the small and clustered, green flower spikes are present from February to April. Beetles, weevils, springtails and molluscs feed on the leaves. Small mammals and birds feed on the seeds.

Historically, the leaves have been used to produce natural dyes including an indigo-like blue, yellow and red.

Illustration by Joanna Uglow