Lesser Celandine- (Ranunculus ficaria)-
On our recent walks we have seen lots of this low growing, hairless perennial plant with its distinctive, bright yellow flowers and fleshy dark green, heart, shaped leaves. A member of the buttercup family, it is found throughout Europe and west Asia. It prefers bare, damp ground and is known as an early harbinger of Spring, apparently making an appearance each year on the 21st of February, more generally it flowers from early February through to May.
The word “Celandine” comes from Latin meaning “swallow” as it was said that the flowers bloomed when the swallows returned and faded when they left. The name “Ranunculus” is Latin for “little frog or tadpole, perhaps referring to its being found near water, or to the fact that the unopened flowers resemble tadpoles.
The plant used to be known as Pilewort because it was used to treat haemorrhoids, as the knobbly tubers of the plant were thought to resemble piles! In German it is known as “Skorbutkraut”- scurvyherb because of the use of its leaves which are high in Vitamin C to prevent scurvy, but beware the plant contains protoanemonin a mild toxin and medicines made from the plant should be extracted either from the dried plant or through the use of heat.
The flower is mentioned by a number of literary greats in their works: J. R. R. Tolkein, C. S. Lewis, D.H. Lawrence and most notably, William Wordsworth all make mention of it. Wordsworth was so inspired by the little flower, that he wrote three poems about it. On his death it was proposed that a lesser celandine would be engraved on his tombstone, but unfortunately a mistake was made and the greater celandine, a member of the poppy family was used instead.
Check out the link for a copy of one of his poems: http://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/william-wordsworth/to-the-small-celandine/