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SUNNY DELIGHT; The first flash of spring sunshine and Wordsworth's favourite flower the celandine opens up and dazzles us with its beauty.

Byline: CAROL KLEIN

The celandine has to be the smiliest plant ever - the slightest suggestion of sun and its buds open into wide starry flowers with polished petals.

No petals in the world are as yellow or as lustrous as those of a celandine. Buttercups come close - after all they are near cousins - but the shine of celandine flowers as they open wide in the first spring sunshine is almost dazzling. It is joyous.

Ranunculus ficaria is the earliest of the buttercup clan, or one of the first to arrive.

Hellebores, too, belong to the same family but protect their precious pollen by hanging their heads.

Celandines employ a different method to cope with torrential rain - they close up their petals (really sepals) when the skies darken, to shield their inner workings.

The petals or sepals are green-backed - camouflaged - until the sun re-emerges.

Like so many spring woodland flowers, it is a classic Cinderella plant, accomplishing its whole cycle above ground in a matter of months. It flowers, is pollinated, sets and distributes seed by the time the clock strikes 12 and the canopy fills in overhead.

It is happy living in hedgerows and damp banks, with beautifully marked leaves accompanying a bounty of golden flowers.

Despite the disappearance of much of its former habitat, it is still relatively common in our countryside thanks to a tremendously successful root system and the production of masses of seed, which germinates easily and quickly. It is this ease of proliferation that make it anathema to many gardeners.

Its roots are composed of a collection of tiny rhizomes joined together in one crown in an unusual construction and prompting its common name of pilewort. Each little rhizome is capable of developing into a fully fledged plant and this happens rapidly.

The Doctrine of Signatures was the medieval practice where plants were used to treat ailments of the organs they resemble and celandines were used as a cure for piles - a sort of pre-homeopathy.

and celandines were used as a cure for piles - a sort of pre-homeopathy.

Whatever its medical efficacy in curing physical woes, there is no doubt that psychologically it fulfils an important function - the sight of its polished golden flowers means the sun is shining and is enough to banish the winter blues and make us all feel that bit better.

Whatever its medical efficacy in curing physical woes, there is no doubt that psychologically it fulfils an important function - the sight of its polished golden flowers means the sun is shining and is enough to banish the winter blues and make us all feel that bit better.

Its common name, celandine, comes from cheladon, the Greek for swallow.

Its common name, celandine, comes from cheladon, the Greek for swallow.

Though the flower arrives long before the bird, the arrival of both is a declaration that spring is on its way. Other country names include golden guineas and bouton d 'or.

bird, the arrival of both is a declaration that spring is on its way. Other country names include golden guineas and bouton d 'or.

The straightforward wilding is beautiful but there are many others, discovered in the wild and brought into cultivation by sharp-eyed botanists and gardeners. Ranunculus ficaria 'Brazen Hussy' is far and away the brightest and most cheerful of all the cultivated celandines, with vivid yellow flowers nestling among bronze leaves Found by Christopher Lloyd in the woods The straightforward wilding is beautiful but there are many others, discovered in the wild and brought into cultivation by sharp-eyed botanists and gardeners. Ranunculus ficaria 'Brazen Hussy' is far and away the brightest and most cheerful of all the cultivated celandines, with vivid yellow flowers nestling among bronze leaves Found by Christopher Lloyd in the woods at Great Dixter in East Sussex, it has become a favourite for a spring show in damp ground.

It is probably the best of the lot - bright blue spring skies are reflected in both its flowers and shiny foliage on a sunny day.

What do you suppose was Wordsworth's favourite flower? Daffodils, surely. Well no, in fact the flower he worshipped above all others was the humble lesser celandine - Ranunculus ficaria.

He wanted to be associated with it when he died but unfortunately they got it wrong and it is an image of the greater celandine, Chelidonium majus, that decorates his monument.

He wrote three poems to the lesser celandine, full of admiration for this plucky little plant that so early in the year braves the elements.

And a worthy subject it is too. On the first sunny day after its emergence, it opens its dull buds wide and thrusts up its vivid yellow stars with their polished petals, as forthright as any plant could be.

CAPTION(S):

POETRY IN MOTION Celandines lift their bright yellow heads to sun

CLOSE CALL Celandines shelter from rain
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 22, 2015
Words:811
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