Lesser celandine (Ficaria verna)

These yellow star-like flowers are one of the first woodland flowers of the year. They often carpet woodlands with a splash of colour. The glossy green heart-shaped leaves add to their charm.

Common name: lesser celandine

Scientific name: Ficaria verna
Family: Ranunculaceae

What does lesser celandine look like?

Lesser celandine is a perennial herb.

Leaves: glossy, dark green in colour and heart-shaped with long stalks.

Flowers: the lesser celandine has shiny yellow star-like flowers with eight to twelve petals.

Not to be confused with...

Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis): sharing a similar flower colour, habitat and time of bloom, the winter aconite has lobed leaves collared around each flower.

Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus): despite sharing its name, the lesser celandine is not related to the greater celandine. It is part of the poppy family. It is much taller than lesser celandine reaching up to 90 cm, its yellow flowers have only four petals and its leaves are lobed.

Where and when to find lesser celandine

Where: damp woodland paths and tracks as well as stream banks and in ditches. It also grows well in the shade of hedgerows, in meadows and in gardens.

When: perennial herb that usually starts to flower between January and April.

Value to wildlife

Bees: As one of the first flowers to appear after winter, they provide an important nectar source for queen bumblebees emerging from hibernation and other early insects.

Uses and folklore

Weather: it was thought that lesser celandine flowers could be used as indicators of rain as they close their petals just before the droplets start to fall.

Medicine: lesser celandine was once believed to be a remedy for haemorrhoids and was known as 'pilewort'. It is also high in vitamin C and was used to prevent scurvy.

Poetry: the poet, William Wordsworth was so fond of lesser celandine that he wrote three poems about them: The Small Celandine, To The Same Flower and To The Small Celandine.

To the small celandine
Pansies, Lilies, Kingcups, Daisies,
Let them live upon their praises;
Long as there's a sun that sets
Primroses will have their glory;
Long as there are Violets,
They will have a place in story:
There's a flower that shall be mine,
'Tis the little Celandine.

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