Lesser Celandine Ficaria verna (previously Ranunculus ficaria) is one of the first plants to bloom at the end of the winter – usually flowering from February to May although I also saw it at the end of December in 2015.
The plant itself is small, usually sprawling over the ground, though the stems can reach 30cm. The flowers, which appear on a short stalk, form a carpet of yellow stars against the dark green heart-shaped leaved. It is found in woodland, under hedgerows, in ditches and along streams.
Lesser Celandine is an important early nectar source but only in calm and sunny weather. If it is wet and windy weather, the petals close, saving the nectar for a time when there are likely to be more insects around to pollinate the flowers.
Like other members of the buttercup family, this plant produces a tight head of seeds. However, it also spreads via underground tubers. Once established it is difficult to eradicate, so it can become a nuisance in the garden. In some areas, eg North America where it is not native, it has become an invasive pest species.
The word celandine is Middle English, from Old French celidoine, from medieval Latin celidonia, based on Greek khelidōn meaning ‘swallow’ (the flowering of the plant being associated with the arrival of swallows).
Although William Wordworth’s best known poem is about daffodils, his favorite flower was actually the lesser celandine, for which he wrote three poems.
Record your sightings of this plant (and any other species you can see around you – try for another four) on the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre recording system (if you are in West Wales) or on iRecord.
Other easy to ID species in Pembrokeshire in early February