GOLDEN STAR: The lesser celandine, one of the first wild plants to flower Pic: Geoffrey Chaytor
GOLDEN STAR: The lesser celandine, one of the first wild plants to flower Pic: Geoffrey Chaytor

Lesser Celandine Ficaria verna, (formerly Ranunculus ficaria)
OFTEN the first truly wild plant to flower in our damp woods, banks and gardens, the lesser celandine carpets the ground closely and delights us with bright yellow star-like flowers for several weeks. Indeed one of its folk names is Golden Stars.
Above rosettes of glossy green, heart-shaped and stalked leaves are the single, long stalked bright flowers about 2cm in diameter with usually seven or eight narrow petals and many yellow stamens.
Beneath the petals is a ring of three green smaller sepals, formerly the bud scales. After flowering and fertilisation, a cluster of small fruits called achenes matures in the centre of the flower.
However, celandines also have creeping and rooting stems and produce a cluster of underground tubers containing food stores.
A subspecies produces few if any ripe achenes but small bulbils in the leaf axils which fall off and root when the main plant decays.
This is how they can carpet the ground so quickly and closely. Some gardeners wage an endless war against this carpet but personally I love the cheerful golden flowers.
The nice thing is that after just a few weeks all traces of the carpet will have withered away allowing all the later plants to come through.
Not surprisingly the lesser celandine is a member of the buttercup family but is no relation at all to the greater celandine, a member of the poppy family.
The only thing they have in common is the colour of their flowers.
l If you are interested in learning more about botany then you are welcome to join a Zoom meeting of the Upper Teesdale Botany Group.
Our next meeting is at 7pm on Monday, March 29, and the subject is Fruit, Flowers and Fish in Hardanger, Norway presented by Dr Tom Gledhill.
To join the Zoom meeting contact Dr Margaret Bradshaw on mebhilltop@ so that we can invite you.

Alison Donaldson
Upper Teesdale Botany Group