Ficaria verna Grán arcáin
There is a Flower, the Lesser Celandine,
That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain;
And, the first moment that the sun may shine,
Bright as the sun himself, ’tis out again!
The small celandine, William Wordsworth
Possibly one of our most overlooked little plants, the Lesser celandine is our first featured species of the month. As one of the first of the yellow flowers to bloom, it is a herald of spring with its promise of warmer days and longer evenings.
Flowering between February and May, the Lesser celandine can be found on hedges, roadsides, woodlands and riverbanks. It is readily identified by its bright yellow flowers each with 8-12 glossy petals. The flowers open to the sun and close up in overcast weather and at night time. The leaves are a distinctive heart shape and may form large dark green carpets where it is well established. The plant does produce seed but mostly spreads vegetatively by producing new tubers. During the rest of the year, the plant resides underground in the form of a large tuber resembling a fig – hence the Latin name Ficaria.
The shape of the root also lent the plant its other common name ‘pilewort’ due to its resemblance to haemorrhoids and because of this, it was used as a traditional herbal remedy for the treatment of piles. Lesser celandine is a member of the buttercup family, the Ranunclaceae and is not botanically related to the Greater celandine which it resembles but which is actually a member of the poppy family. Like all buttercup species, the lesser celandine contains toxic compounds and should not be ingested in its raw form.
The Lesser celandine, along with dandelions, willow and other early flowering species is an important source of food for many insects which emerge from hibernation in the spring such as bumble bees and solitary bees.