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Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) Identification

Lesser Celandine / Spring / Summer / Edible

Identification Guide for Lesser Celandine

A very common, woodland plant, one of the first plants to flower in spring.


Common Names

Lesser Celandine, Spring Messenger, Pilewort.


Botanical Name      

Ficaria verna


Scientific Classification

Kingdom – Plantae

Order – Ranunculales

Family – Ranunculaceae


Physical Characteristics for Lesser Celandine

Leaves

The leaves are heart shaped, glossy and deep green. Very often with white or pale spots or blotches. The leaves are on long stalks and are up to 3-5 in diameter.

Krzysztof Golik, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Flowers

The flowers are bright yellow, star shaped and have between 8-12 petals.

Zeynel Cebeci, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Roots

The roots are pale brown and are quite close to the surface. They are knobbly and fibrous. The common name pile wort comes from the appearance of the roots which are said to look like piles or haemorrhoids.

Christian Hummert (Ixitixel, CC BY 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons

Habitat

Most often it’s found in damp woodlands hedgerows and disturbed ground.


Known Hazards

As a member of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) it contains a compound known as protoanemonin. Contact with damaged or crushed leaves can cause itching, rashes or blistering on the skin. This compound is destroyed by heat or drying.


Could be Confused with…

It’s quite distinctive and flowers in early spring some when are not many lookalikes around.


Edible Uses

The roots can be dug up and roasted or boiled for around 15 minutes until tender they have a lovely nutty taste

The leaves when young can be gently wilted but they can be slightly bitter. Once the plant flowers the leaves are not really worthwhile.


Notes on Herbal Uses

It’s been traditionally used to treat haemorrhoids.

An ointment of the roots is said to cure corns and warts.

The leaves are high in Vitamin C and were apparently used by Christopher Columbus to prevent scurvy.


Extra notes from the Foragers

The plant appears a lot in literature, William Wordsworth wrote three poems about it and it also appears in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

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