Ficaria verna commonly known as lesser celandine is from the Ranunculaceae or buttercup family. It is native to Europe and West Asia.
It has fleshy heart shaped leaves that emerge in early spring followed by bright shiny yellow flowers. By the summer the whole plant withers and seems to disappear. Do not be deceived; this noxious invasive weed is just lying dormant for six months ready to reappear smothering all before it.
In the US many states regarded it as an illegal plant and in the UK it is considered a persistent garden weed.
In the wild in a woodland setting it is a pretty thing and loved by many as one of the first spring flowers. Poets including William Wordsworth were very fond of the flower. He even wrote an ode to the celandine.
‘I have seen thee high and low, Thirty years or more, and yet T’was a face I did not know’.
At Reveley unfortunately in years gone by its little fleshy tubers havebeen mixed in with the compost. Now many of the beds are invaded and some very worthy plants are being smothered. We will never be able to eradicate it. The best hope (as with the ground elder in the Clay Lane bed) is to lift plants worth saving, wash their roots free of the tubers, plant them in a stock bed and poison this awful weed.
For historical herbal use the plant is known as pilewort, the raw leaves being made into a cream to treat piles. The knobbly tubers resemble haemorrhoids suggesting the remedy. It will not be welcome in the Medicinal bed at Reveley.
There are of course cultivated varieties of celandines. The most well known is Ficaria verna ‘Brazen Hussey’ It is less invasive but I keep mine in a pot and will never let it loose. I note local garden centres are currently selling it for £4.00
If you buy it be very careful.