Quick facts

Common name(s): lesser celandine, pilewort

Scientific name: Ficaria verna

Family: Ranunculaceae

Origin: native

Flowering season: January to April

Habitat: woodland, grassland, gardens

What do lesser celandines look like?

Lesser celandine is a small, low-growing perennial herb in the buttercup family.

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

Flowers: shiny, yellow star-like flowers with eight to twelve petals.

Not to be confused with: winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) which also has a yellow flower as well as a similar habitat and flowering season. But, the winter aconite has deeply lobed leaves collared around each flower; and greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) which, despite having the same name, is not related to lesser celandine. It’s actually a member of the poppy family. It’s much taller than lesser celandine, reaching up to 90cm and only has four petals.

Credit: Zoonar Gmbh / Alamy Stock Photo

Where to find lesser celandine

Lesser celandine loves damp woodland paths and tracks, as well as stream banks and ditches. You can also spot it growing in gardens, meadows and shady hedgerows. They flower between January and April.

Value to wildlife

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

Did you know?

They are mentioned in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. When Aslan returned and the woodland turns from winter to spring, the ground was covered in all directions with yellow celandine flowers.

Uses and symbolism

It was once thought that you could use lesser celandine to predict the weather as they close their petals before raindrops. The leaves are high in vitamin C and have been used to prevent scurvy.

Wordsworth was such a fan of the lesser celandine, he wrote three poems about them: The Small Celandine, To the Same Flower and To the Small Celandine.

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