Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria

This is the first of the buttercups to flower in Spring - and the flowers only open fully in bright sunshine.

yellow flowers of the lesser celandine plant

The flowers are easy to recognize with up to twelve golden yellow petals. The leaves are heart-shaped and glossy dark green. The plant stands around 7-20cm tall with flowers 2-3cm wide.

Where to find Lesser Celandine plants

Lesser celandines are usually found in slightly damp, partially shady areas.  We see them in ditch banks, hedgerows and deciduous woodland on our farms.

How did Lesser Celandine get its name?

Celandine is said to come from the Latin "chelidonia"  meaning swallow, as the flowers are seen often as the first swallows arrive in late March/early April. Ranunculus comes from late latin "Rana" which means frog. This plant is found in damper areas where frogs are prevalant.

Celandines appear in popular literature such as poems by William Wordsworth and D H Lawrence.  They are found across Europe, Asia and have been introduced into North America.


To The Small Celandine - by William Wordsworth

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. 

Eyes of some men travel far 
For the finding of a star; 
Up and down the heavens they go, 
Men that keep a mighty rout! 
I'm as great as they, I trow, 
Since the day I found thee out, 
Little Flower!--I'll make a stir, 
Like a sage astronomer. 

Modest, yet withal an Elf 
Bold, and lavish of thyself; 
Since we needs must first have met 
I have seen thee, high and low, 
Thirty years or more, and yet 
'Twas a face I did not know; 
Thou hast now, go where I may, 
Fifty greetings in a day. 

Ere a leaf is on a bush, 
In the time before the thrush 
Has a thought about her nest, 
Thou wilt come with half a call, 
Spreading out thy glossy breast 
Like a careless Prodigal; 
Telling tales about the sun, 
When we've little warmth, or none. 

Poets, vain men in their mood! 
Travel with the multitude: 
Never heed them; I aver 
That they all are wanton wooers; 
But the thrifty cottager, 
Who stirs little out of doors, 
Joys to spy thee near her home; 
Spring is coming, Thou art come! 

Comfort have thou of thy merit, 
Kindly, unassuming Spirit! 
Careless of thy neighbourhood, 
Thou dost show thy pleasant face 
On the moor, and in the wood, 
In the lane;--there's not a place, 
Howsoever mean it be, 
But 'tis good enough for thee.