Spring Wildflowers Part I — Lesser Celandine

The people on Twitter have spoken (or at least tweeted) and have chosen plants for my new series here on BioWeb.ie. Be sure to stay tuned to both @OshDuffy and @BioWeb_ie for more botanical blogs and plant posts!

Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) — Grán arcáin Ranunculaceae

Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) an upright hairless plant and true sign of Spring – Oisín Duffy
Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) an upright hairless plant and true sign of Spring – Oisín Duffy

Lesser celandine is a truly beautiful little plant and one of the first signs of Spring that you’re likely to come across. In fact this year, we came across it as early as the 2nd of January during the BSBI New Year Plant Hunt in Co. Armagh. Since January more and more has come into flower and has probably been at flowering peak for the last few weeks or so, in fact I’m already seeing some that are starting to go to seed. Lesser Celandine usually grows in clumps, from small patches to large carpets.

Close up of Lesser Celandine – Oisín Duffy
Close up of Lesser Celandine – Oisín Duffy

The flowers are a brilliant yellow, generally with eight petals (sometimes more and sometimes double) which are slightly reflective on very sunny days.

A double petalled variety of Lesser Celandine I came across last year locally in Co. Waterford – Oisín Duffy
A double petalled variety of Lesser Celandine I came across last year locally in Co. Waterford – Oisín Duffy

The leaves are heart-shaped and deep glossy green in colour, often with quite intricate markings or mottling (although sometimes they can be plain green).

Heart shaped leaves with beautiful markings, you can see from this photo that it has formed a rather nice clump or patch – Oisín Duffy
Heart shaped leaves with beautiful markings, you can see from this photo that it has formed a rather nice clump or patch – Oisín Duffy

Two subspecies also occur subsp. verna and subsp. fertilis. The species was also previously known as Ranunculus ficaria before its change to Ficaria verna. If you want to get out and see this species, it shouldn’t be too hard, it’s currently in flower and is common and widespread.

Lesser Celandine is also an important plant for early Spring pollinators, in particular hoverflies and of course beautiful solitary bees (pictured above) – Oisín Duffy
Lesser Celandine is also an important plant for early Spring pollinators, in particular hoverflies and of course beautiful solitary bees (pictured above) – Oisín Duffy

It’s quite a distinctive plant, so there’s not too much you can mix it up with and I am currently seeing it on virtually every roadside verge in the Waterford countryside.

Roadside covered in Lesser Celandine – Oisín Duffy
Roadside covered in Lesser Celandine – Oisín Duffy

Remember if you find the plant and you’re happy with the identification, you can submit the record to the National Biodiversity Data Centre who with the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland are currently running a Spring Flowers Project

Remember if you have any ideas for future posts or if you want help with identification you can ask me on Twitter @OshDuffy.

Oisín Duffy
About Oisín Duffy 23 Articles
Oisín Duffy is an ecologist and environmental educator with a special interest in the Flora of Ireland and Pollinators. He is the photographer and co-author of Biodiversity Ireland’s identification guide on “Trees and Shrubs”. He has a BA from NUIG and an MSc from NUIG and UL. Oisín is an active biological recorder, and current Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) Vice-county recorder for East Donegal (H34) and participates in a number of recording schemes run by the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC), Bat Conservation Ireland (BCI) and others. In 2016, Oisín worked in conjunction with the National Biodiversity Data Centre to develop a plant monitoring scheme for Ireland. During the Summer of 2016, he toured Ireland giving workshops for the Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. His most recent work has been as a photographer and author of the “Wildflowers in South Armagh”.

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