Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) belongs to the buttercup family. The bright yellow flowers appear briefly in early spring. The plant has a long history as a wild edible with its large fleshy roots and green shoots that appear as one of the first signs of spring.
Ficaria verna syn. Ranunculus ficaria.
The stem and leaves are brightly coloured green, younger leaves are heart-shaped and become ivy-like in appearance with darker markings. The shiny flowers are composed of nine to twelve golden-yellow petals with a green underside. The fruit appears like grains of corn, being globular and whitish.
Perennial. Native to Europe, western Asia and north Africa.
Habitat and Distribution
Distributed across Europe, western Asia and North Africa, found in fields, hillsides, riverbanks and woodlands.
Parts Used For Food
Young leaves. Roots.
The plant’s roots swell up to form bulbs or tubers, which are reputedly delicious and can be eaten as a starchy vegetable.1 Lesser celandine has been used as a potherb in central Europe2 and the young parts of the plant have been added to salads.3
Lesser celandine may contain antioxidants that make it worthy as a springtime tonic, although further research into its biological activities is needed.4
Lesser Celandine Recipes
Traditional Medicine Uses
Lesser celandine was a traditional remedy for piles; its common name of figwort alludes to ‘fig’ as an old name for piles.5 An ointment of the roots was also said to cure corns and worts.6
An unusual use for the petals and leaves recorded in Cumbria, England, was for cleaning teeth.7
DO NOT EAT LESSER CELANDINE RAW!
Protoanemonin, which is the toxic compound in the plant is destroyed by cooking and drying.
As a member of the buttercup family, lesser celandine may cause contact dermatitis in humans and animals.8 The plant sap may also cause nausea and vomiting if taken internally; the plant’s safety during pregnancy or when breastfeeding is not established and therefore best avoided.9
About The Author
Robin Harford is a plant-based forager, ethnobotanical researcher, and wild food educator. He is the author of Edible and Medicinal Wild Plants of Britain and Ireland.
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- Klooss, S et al, Charred root tubers of lesser celandine (Ficaria verna HUDS.) in plant macro remain assemblages from Northern, Central and Western Europe. Quaternary International, 2015.
- Turner, NJ et al. Edible and Tended Wild Plants, Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Agroecology. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, 2011. DOI: 1080/07352689.2011.554492.
- Flora of the U.S.S.R. Volume VII. Editor: Komarov, VL. Published for the Smithsonian Institute and the National Science Foundation, Washington, DC, by the Israel Program for Scientific Translations.
- Barla, GF et al. Antioxidant activity and total phenolic content in Allium ursinum and Ranunculus ficaria. Journal of Faculty of Food Engineering. 2014.
- Grieve, M. A Modern Herbal. Tiger Books International. London. 1996. ISBN: 1-85501-249-9.
- Hatfield, G. Hatfield’s Herbal. Allen Lane, Penguin Books. London. 2007. ISBN: 978-140-51577-0.
- Allen, DE, Hatfield, G. Medicinal Plants in Folk Tradition. An ethnobotany of Britain & Ireland. Timber Press. Portland, Oregon. 2004. ISBN: 9780881926385.
- Jackson, PW. Ireland’s Generous Nature. The Past and Present Uses of Wild Plants in Ireland. Missouri Botanical Garden Press. St Louis, missouri. 2014. ISBN: 978-0-915279-78-4.
- Karalliedde, Dr L. Gawarammana, Dr I. Traditional Herbal Medicines. A guide to their safer use. Hammersmith Press Ltd. London. 2007. ISBN: 978-1-905140-04-6.