Ranunculus ficaria, The Lesser Celandine

Lesser Celandine flower (Ranunculus ficaria)Lesser Celandine normally flowers in the second half of February making it one of our earliest spring flowers, at their best in March they fade in late April and May.

Lesser Celandine flower (Ranunculus ficaria) Lesser Celandine flower (Ranunculus ficaria)   Lesser Celandine flower (Ranunculus ficaria)   Lesser Celandine flower (Ranunculus ficaria)It is a woodland flower adapted to appear before the trees put on leaves and shade the forest floor, it can also be found under hedgerows and by the roadside, often in large numbers. It is said to be an indicator of ancient woodland.

Lesser Celandine flower (Ranunculus ficaria)The leaves are heart shaped, hairless and mottled in colour, often quite darkly mottled.

Lesser Celandine leaf (Ranunculus ficaria)

Lesser Celandine flower (Ranunculus ficaria)Early seedlings appear right at the beginning of January. These next pictures were taken on the fifth of January (2015)

Lesser Celandine seedling (Ranunculus ficaria)

Lesser Celandine seedling (Ranunculus ficaria)Towards the end of January buds were beginning to form and I thought we could be in for an early show

(January 24)
Lesser Celandine seedling (Ranunculus ficaria) This is the same plant, taken on March 3rd. The buds appeared early but they lay dormant for weeks.Lesser Celandine seedling (Ranunculus ficaria)Lesser Celandine is a sun loving flower that closes at night and wakes up quite late in the morning. The undersides of the petals are green so the flower almost disappears.

Lesser Celandine flower (Ranunculus ficaria)

Lesser Celandine flower (Ranunculus ficaria)The poet William Wordsworth loved the Lesser Celandine and wrote several poems about the flower.

This is from his poem The little Celandine (1884)

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!

This aptly reflects the flower’s habit of closing in bad weather.

It is a sad poem that goes on to talk about how as the flower ages it loses the ability to open and close and Wordsworth notes, “It cannot help itself in it’s decay.”

Lesser Celandine flower (Ranunculus ficaria)There is a story doing the rounds that Wordsworth loved the flower so much that he asked for it to be carved on his grave stone. In fact the carving is on a memorial plaque inside the church of Saint Oswald at Grasmere, in The Lake District. Sadly the other part of the story is true, the carving is of Greater Celandine, an unfortunate mistake.

Lesser Celandine is a member of the Buttercup family and neither looks like nor is related to Greater Celandine, a member of the Poppy family.

Lesser Celandine
Lesser Celandine flower (Ranunculus ficaria)The number of petals can vary between eight and twelve and whilst eight seems most common this next flower has eleven.

Lesser Celandine flower (Ranunculus ficaria)The flowers are a rich source of nectar and pollen early in the year when there are not many other flowers around and so they are very important to insects. (In this case a Honey Bee)

Honey Bee on Lesser Celandine

Honey Bee on Lesser CelandineNative to Europe and loved in the UK the plant is considered invasive in other parts of the world where it can crowd out native species.

Lesser Celandine flower (Ranunculus ficaria)

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Ranunculales

Family: Ranunculaceae

Genus: Ranunculus

Species: Ranunculus ficaria

Lesser Celandine flower (Ranunculus ficaria) Lesser Celandine flower (Ranunculus ficaria)   Lesser Celandine flower (Ranunculus ficaria)   Lesser Celandine flower (Ranunculus ficaria)

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