Lesser Celandine

Common name:
Lesser Celandine, Pilewort
Ficaria verna (Ranunculus ficaria)
Gráin arcáin
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)
Flowering period:
February to May
hedgerows, woodlands, roadsides and damp shady places
Conservation Status:
locally abundant throughout the Burren

Lesser Celandine in full bloom in the Burren, bringing much needed little bursts of sunshine to our lives, reminding us that Spring is here and of all the many beautiful blooms to come…

Short description:

Solitary glossy bright yellow flowers on long stalks. Leaves fleshy, heart shaped, glossy green.

Noteworthy characteristics:

Easily identified from other buttercups due to its characteristic heart shaped leaves.  Often seen growing  on roadside verges and woodland edges where it forms dense carpets

The flowers shiny yellow petals are pale green underneath,  allowing them to ‘disappear’ in the undergrowth when closed.  Lesser celandine opens  to the sunshine.

Uses and other points of interest:

These star shaped  brilliant yellow flowers bring welcome colour to the Burren roadsides in early Spring.

The Irish name for  this plant, Gráin refers to an grian or the sun as the plant opens and closes in tune with the sun

Ranunculus derives from the Latin rana meaning ‘frog’ as it is found in damp places and diminutive unculus, as some species are aquatic, particular the water crowfoots.

The  name Pilewort  springs from  its use in Ireland in the past in the treatment of  piles and other swellings.  Its tubular roots and bulbils (small bulbs formed in the leaf axils) resemble the shape of piles or ‘figs’ as they were known in the past, which also accounts for its species name ficaria meaning fig like.

This plant is a classic example of the Doctrine of Signatures- an ancient system used by early herbalists where a plant is used medicinally for suggestively similar looking afflictions.

The medicinal use of lesser celandine in the treatment of piles has stood the test of time and continues  to be used by modern herbalists.

It  is a principle ingredient in ointment and suppositories to treat piles (haemorrhoids)

Early herbalists also used lesser celandine in the treatment of scrofula, warts and corns. The leaves were often used to whiten teeth.

A favourite flower of William Wordsworth so much so that he wrote a poem about it, To the small celandine

It begins:

Here is a flower, the lesser celandine

That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain

And, the first moment that the sun may shine

Bright as the sun himself, ‘tis out again!



This powerful medicinal plant is an uplifting sight to behold after the long winter days.   One of the earliest wild plants to flower in the Burren, its sunny yellow blossoms brighten our days and are a  reminder of the many wonderful and joyous blooms to follow over the next few months.  The Victorians also used this plant to symbolise “joys to come”.

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