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Thousands of Miniature Suns. Produced By the Lesser Celandine

Updated on August 5, 2015

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman.

Here in England and in the UK. in general we are currently in the midst of the big freeze, Since before Christmas temperatures have not lifted above freezing during the day and by night they plummet to -9C to -15C. Therefore I was amazed to find, during one of my forays into the countryside,, the foliage of the lesser celandine, Ranunuclus ficaria, rising above the frost bound soil. .Lesser celandine is a perennial native which thrives in damp meadows, woods and other shady places.

The flowers burst into life during February and March with its golden yellow star-shaped petals which vary in number from 7-12 below which are three green sepals. These sepals fall away as the flower unfolds, unlike those of their close relatives the buttercups which clasp the flower from beneath even when the flower is open. The bright yellow flowers are like thousands of miniature suns brightening the waysides that up till then have only been adorned with dank vegetation. These flowers help to dispel the winter blues and thus lift the spirit. They are about 2cm in diameter and are borne singly on leafless slender stalks.the fruits {seed capsule} are very similar to those of the buttercups being set together in a globular head. The flowers, even though they have honey sacks, which would be of benefit to bees and other insects, are rarely visited for they bloom when it is to cold for most insects to be abroad. even in fine weather the flowers do not open early and they are closed again by nightfall. The petals are greenish below so that when the flowers are closed they become almost inconspicuous.

Should you be inclined to dig up the plant in late summer or autumn you will discover that the small fig like tubers hang in a bunch along the stringy root. The plant attained its species name of ficaria-meaning fig-like from the tubers. They also gave rise to the plants country title of " pilewort " In archaic times herbalists believed in the " Doctrine of signatures" which meant that every plant either by colour or form would reveal the disease they were meant to cure. In the case of the lesser celandine it was the bunch of tubers looking superficially like the affliction commonly called piles that lead to them being used for their treatment. Indeed a poultice was made of the foliage and applied warm to the area infected.

The tubers are the main reproductive organs of the plant for they seldom produce fertile seeds in the UK. The tubers break off readily and each one is capable of producing a new plant. Some sub-species grow bulbils {tiny bulb like growth} in between the leaves and stem which fall off when ripe and will form new plants when conditions are right.

Like all members of the Ranunculus group the plant is poisonous. This species should not be mistaken for the larger unrelated greater celandine a member of the poppy family and a cottage garden favourite. Because of their similar names it has caused confusion over the two species in the past.

The plant was the favourite flower of William Wordsworth, it grew in abundance in his beloved Lake District. Indeed, the foliage of the celandine was carved upon his tomb stone in Grassmere. However, because of the confusion that arose at that time over the two species it was actually the foliage of the greater celandine that the stone mason carved. I will conclude with these lines from William Wordsworth---------------

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.

Lesser Celandine

These little "suns" help to dispel the winter blues. photograph courtesy of Rodger Griffith.
These little "suns" help to dispel the winter blues. photograph courtesy of Rodger Griffith.
The foliage is heart shaped when young. Photograph courtesy of Ramin Nakisa.
The foliage is heart shaped when young. Photograph courtesy of Ramin Nakisa.

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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Thank you to all who have taken the time to commnet on THOUSANDS OF MINIATURE SUNS, they are appreciated.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi peter616, nice to meet you. thank you for reading and for leaving your comment.

    • peter616 profile image

      peter616 

      8 years ago

      close to nature , very creative and nice. thanks for share

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Trish thank you for reading and for your nice comments

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 

      8 years ago from The English Midlands

      I have loved wild flowers since I was tiny.

      Lovely thoughts. Beautiful photos.

      And I like Wordsworth, too!

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Cindy, after the bleakness of winter we could all do with a spring tonic. Thank you for reading and leaving your comment.

    • Cindy Letchworth profile image

      Cindy Letchworth 

      8 years ago from Midwest, U.S.A.

      Flowers in February would be a delightful change from the dull grayness that often hits the Midwest. Right now we have been cloudy for days with rain, rain, rain. It is if it is spring time with nearly freezing temperatures.

      Delightful hub.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      send flower thank you for reading. I am aware through your excellent hubs, of your passion for flowers.

    • profile image

      sendflowers2009 

      8 years ago

      D.A.L., thanks for your interesting hubs, especially about flowers. :)

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Darlene--thank you for reading and for your appreciated comments.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Darlene--thank you for reading and for your appreciated comments.

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      8 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Oh how I love the pictures, I love the sound of Earth, the smells, walking in quite nature. Awesome article, my heart and senses were satificed today. Thank you for sharing

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave 

      8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      2uesday thank you . Glad you liked it. Most of us are looking forward to the spring.

      Peggy W than you for calling by to read this. Lesser celandine growing in the right conditions will carpet vast areas. In the garden however, they become very invasive and are difficult to eradicate.

      reddog1027 thank you,too we all need to smile.

      jayjay40 Thank you for reading and leaving your comment.

    • jayjay40 profile image

      jayjay40 

      8 years ago from Bristol England

      How lovely to see this flower among the snow-thanks for sharing

    • reddog1027 profile image

      reddog1027 

      8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Nature always finds a way to make you smile.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This is a pretty and bright blooming little flower. It looks as though it grows close to the ground blanketing it with color.

    • 2uesday profile image

      2uesday 

      8 years ago

      To see these flowering in February will be a very welcome sight after this winter.

      I know the grave/church yard in Grasmere you write of - there is a daffodil walk and the wonderful Grasmere Gingerbread is sold nearby. I enjoyed hub this made me think of spring.

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