Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna)

Ficaria verna, commonly known as lesser celandine or pilewort is a native wildflower, which is widespread in woodlands, hedgerows and on riverbanks. Therefore, it is no surprise that we have lots of it along the Greenway. You may not always notice the glossy heart-shaped leaves as it is very low growing and can be hidden among taller grass areas. However, its yellow star-like flowers are one of the first woodland flowers of the year and can often carpet woodlands and riversides with a splash of colour in March or April.

It is a fast spreading ground cover due to its preference for damp ground where other plants and grasses can be slower to colonise. It can spread by seed but also by its toots/tubers which, if disturbed or scattered can quickly re-establish and multiply. This often happens due to erosion and flood events and is why we often see lesser celandine spread around riverbanks and streams.

Its vigorous growth has given it a reputation as a weed (a plant in the wrong place) to some gardeners and horticulturalists and once it gets established in an area it is very difficult to control or remove.

Photo credit: Jonathan Clark, Victoria Park


Where to find it??

Quite an antisocial little plant, it begins to grow in winter then bursts into colour early spring. This allows it to take advantage of trees not yet being in leaf and higher levels of sunlight reaching the ground during late winter and early spring. As daylight hours lengthen, temperatures rise and we all begin to get outside more, the lesser celandine dies back and enters a six month dormancy period under ground. How rude!

Well known English poet William Wordsworth was so taken by lesser celandine that he wrote a number of poems about it including this:

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…

Photo credit: Jonathan Clark, Victoria Park


Be Part of it…

We received many pictures from our photographers last week including some of the Marsh Marigold which looks very similar to the lesser calendine and will feature in a future blog. Thank you so much and keep snapping any plants which capture your attention on the Greenway.