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Wherever you go, in the next few sunny days, if you come across a patch of grass that hasn’t been mowed to destruction, you are almost certain to find the smiling golden stars of Lesser Celandine Ficaria Verna (formally Ranunculus Ficaria) looking up at you.

lesser-celandine-1     This bright flower from the buttercup family is a bane to the gardener; springing up and spreading rapidly in damp, shady places. Flat enough to avoid being damaged by a lawnmower, yet persistent enough to survive and thrive despite being dug or sprayed. If you pull a plant up, the roots are tuberous, dangling in small pale clusters  … if just one of these drops off a new plant springs up, and to make the plant even more successful, fragile propagation tubers form every spring as the leaves die back.

The early herbalists thought these congested masses of roots looked liked piles, and recommended them pounded with lard as a remedy – hence its alternative name of Pilewort. There are in fact, 4 different subspecies in the UK .. 2 are spread soley by seeds (and don’t spread by tubers formed in the leaf axis) while the other 2 produce both seeds and tubers.

Recording the date of the first flower seen in your area is important; it shows how the seasons in the UK – and probably the climate are changing. Dates of the opening of the first flower have advanced by an average of a fortnight this spring (2015) since 2000.

And for gardeners … well if you can’t beat ’em, there are some very attractive forms of lesser celandine now for sale e.g ‘Brazen Hussey’ with dark bronze leaves, or the cream coloured ‘Primrose’ which are very useful to grow under broadleaved trees, or anywhere dry shade un summer makes choice limited