Lesser Celandine / Spring / Summer / Edible
Identification Guide for Lesser Celandine
A very common, woodland plant, one of the first plants to flower in spring.
Lesser Celandine, Spring Messenger, Pilewort.
Kingdom – Plantae
Order – Ranunculales
Family – Ranunculaceae
Physical Characteristics for Lesser Celandine
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.
The flowers are bright yellow, star shaped and have between 8-12 petals.
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.
Most often it’s found in damp woodlands hedgerows and disturbed ground.
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.
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.