These welcome blooms are among the first to show themselves in spring, studding fields and damp verges with brilliant yellow stars.
The number of petals can vary between eight and 12, and they sit on quite long stems above a close bed of dark green heart-shaped leaves.
Celandines respond to the daylight, opening out at dawn and closing up at dusk; like true sun-worshippers, they will also close up before rain. The old Celtic name for them is ‘grian’, meaning ‘sun’.
Although Wordsworth’s most famous poem was about daffodils, it was the lesser celandine that was his favourite flower:
“There is a Flower, the Lesser Celandine,
That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain;
And, at the first moment that the sun may shine,
Bright as the sun itself, ‘tis out again!”
‘The Small Celandine’
Traditionally, lesser celandine has been used to treat many ailments, from varicose veins to haemorrhoids, ulcers and warts; in the Western Isles, the plants were sometimes hung in cow byres to bring good yields of milk.
According to Plantlife, in the language of flowers celandine represents ‘joy to come’. The heads are so pure and delicate, yet they are among the bravest, coming before the woodland beauties of windflowers and bluebells, when the air is still sharp with frost and the squalls can turn easily from rain to snow. After a long winter of wind and rain, they gladden the heart.
- Wildlife Trusts
- The White Goddess
- Western Isles Wildflowers
- The Herb Society – Herbs in History
Photos © Colin & Jo Woolf
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