Lesser celandine – characteristics, cultivation and use

lesser celandine
lesser celandine

The lesser celandine is often the first green plant in early spring, which occurs in large numbers in sparse forests. The leaves sometimes form whole carpets, where they grow and pleases both insects and wild herb lovers with its impressive yellow flowers. Due to its rich vitamin C content, the lesser celandine was considered one of the most important medicinal plants against the dreaded scurvy in the Middle Ages to the early modern period. As a wild herb it still occasionally comes onto one´s plate. As a medicinal herb, however, it is barely used.

Profile of lesser celandine:

Scientific name: Ficaria verna

Plant family: buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), crowfoot family

Other names: pilewort

Sowing time / Planting time: October – March

Flowering period: March – May

Harvest time: April (leaves)

Useful plant parts: leaves, buds, roots

Location: sunny to shady

Soil quality: nutrient-rich and slightly moist soils

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: Vitamin C deficiency, spring fatigue, hemorrhoids, genital warts

Use as aromatic herb: Wild herb salads, herb butter, herb quark, spread

Plant characteristics and classification of lesser celandine

Occurrence and origin of the lesser celandine

The lesser celandine originally comes from Central Europe. The plant is considered invasive and can adapt relatively easily to many climates. It therefore also occurs today in northern Europe to northern Africa and on the American continent. Also in the high mountains the lesser celandine can be found, whereby it occurs depending on region and mountain situation frequently with heights up to 1.600 and 2.000 m (5.250 to 6.500 ft).

As a typical early flowering plant, the lesser celandine usually appears on the edges of deciduous forests, near lakes and ponds, and on meadows and park edges.

Plant order of the lesser celandine

Also known as pilewort lesser celandine (Ficaria verna) belongs to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). The herb is related to the pasque flower or the creeping buttercup. The genus Ficaria is still relatively young in botanical science and currently includes four known species.

There are now five different subspecies (varieties) of lesser celandine known, which can be differentiated into different geographic regions and their chromosome number.

The still common botanical name Ranunculus ficaria is now considered outdated, as the lesser celandine is no longer expected to the genus Ranunculus.

Look and characteristics of the lesser celandine


The lesser celandine is a typical herbaceous and perennial ground-cover plant. As a rule, the plant reaches stature heights of up to 30 cm (12 in). In the soil it forms small club-like tubers (bulbel), which serve as storage organs for starch. The roots, which also have small beige root hairs lie flat just below the soil surface.


The leaves of the lesser celandine are slightly heart-shaped and mostly dark green colored. The leaf margin is slightly sawn or at least notched. Each leaf is attached to the main shoot with a long stem. The leaf surface is glabrous, shiny and shows a cellular leaf venation.


As a typical early flowering plant, the lesser celandine produces its striking, bright yellow flowers as early as March and usually flowers well into May. Each flower usually contains eight petals, rarely up to eleven. In the center of the flower are also numerous stamens, which are also yellow and contain plenty of pollen. For many insects such as bees, the celandine is one of the first food sources in spring.


For fruit ripening, the plant produce small green nutlets. Each plant usually contains up to 6 nuts.

yellow flower of lesser celandine
yellow flower of lesser celandine

Lesser celandine – cultivation and care


Lesser celandine are extremely adaptable. They tolerate sunny as well as partially shaded and shady locations. However, spots which come into contact with the sun for at least four to six hours daily are preferred. The soil should be rich in nutrients, always slightly moist and humic. Sandy soils are rather unsuitable because these types of soil can only badly hold water and nutrients. If the plant is to grow in a bucket or a planter, commercial potting soil is recommended. Typical herbal soils are usually unsuitable or need to be optimized with nutrients.

Sowing and cultivation

The seeds of the lesser celandine can already be sown in October. The plant needs cold to germ and needs frost to shoot. It is recommended to sow the herb directly in the field. When sowing, a planting distance of about 20 cm (8 in) per plant should be maintained. Cultivation with fresh plants is much easier.


The water requirement of the lesser celandine is slightly higher. On warm April days, it may be necessary to water a little more often. The soil should always be slightly damp, but not wet. The plant does not tolerate waterlogging. On normal March and April days usually no special irrigation is necessary.


In more nutrient-poor soils, compost or a good organic fertilizer (such as cow manure pellets, organic liquid fertilizers) with a balanced N-P-K ratio can be mixed into the soil from October. A few amounts is enough. If the soil is already rich in nutrients, additional fertilization is usually not required.


The herb does not need special care. Lesser celandine will bloom until about May and then completely lose its leaves. The plant then survives in the form of the tuber in the soil. If one plans cultivating the herb for a longer time, sometimes a stock reduction is recommended, since the lesser celandine proliferates rapidly by vegetative runner.


Lesser celandine is adapted to cold climates. No measures are necessary for wintering.

Use of celandine

Lesser celandine as a kitchen herb

For consumption, the leaves are harvested before flowering. During the flowering period, the content of protoanemonine, a poison that contains all buttercup plants, increases sharply. It causes mucosal irritation, which is why the leaves should no longer be consumed from this point on.

As drying the leaves, the toxic protoanemonine is rendered harmless.

Before flowering, the poison is contained in the leaves at a low dose, but when moderately consumed it has no negative effects. As a rule of thumb, a handful of leaves per day is for an adult. Since each person is different, you can also test out your own personal amount, which you tolerate well. To eat the leaves pure and stop when the taste is unpleasant or the body says stop over other signals.

Lesser celandine leaves are a spicy addition to salads, herb quark or butter and bread. Furthermore, it can be mixed with carefully dosed smoothies. It dispels spring tiredness and purifies the blood.

The small bulbils can also be consumed, preferably pure in small amounts, then you will notice when your body has enough. In times of famine, a flour was made from the bulbils and the roots to make bread.

Lesser celandine butter

This delicious spread with lesser celandine is quite easy to prepare. You need:

  • 250 g / 0.55 lbs of butter or as a vegan alternative margarine
  • two hands full of lesser celandine
  • a1finely chopped onion
  • 1 finely grated carrot
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • salt and pepper

The preparation is done in a few steps.

  • chop lesser celandine
  • stir with the other ingredients under the soft butter or margarine.
  • season with salt and pepper.
  • the finished spread is stable for a few days in the fridge.
lesser celandine plant
lesser celandine plant

Lesser celandine as a medicinal herb

In today’s natural medicine, lesser celandine has hardly any meaning. Previously, the leaves of the herb were used against the vitamin C deficiency disease scurvy. The plant was especially in the declining winter and early spring as the main plant for ship and supply trips and many poorer people. The plant was abundant and easy to harvest. It ensured the supply of vitamin C directly after the cold winter days. Due to the not insignificant content of protoanemonin, however, stomach and intestinal complaints have frequently occurred.

Lesser celandine contain some ingredients that can certainly have a positive effect on the human organism. Among other things, both the flowers and the leaves of the herb contain some known flavonoids such as kaempferol, quercetin, apigenin and luteolin. These substances are responsible for the invigorating and anti-inflammatory effects of the plant. In addition, the plant contains other substances, saponins such as oleanolic acid, which has hepatoprotective, antiviral and sometimes tumor-inhibiting properties.

Lesser celandine can be used for these ailments and diseases

Do not overdose !

  • hemorrhoids (hipbath)
  • skin blemishes
  • spring fever
  • vitamin C deficiency
  • warts

Medicinal properties

  • blood purifying

Tea from lesser celandine leaves is drunk for blood purification, it also stimulates the metabolism of skin from the inside. Externally, tea-soaked envelopes or sitz baths of lesser celandine help with blemishes and hemorrhoids.

Preparation of lesser celandine tea

For the tea dried herb is used, as drying the leaves, the toxic Protoanemoin is rendered harmless.

Time needed: 5 minutes

This is how you prepare a lesser celandine tea by yourself

  1. put 2 teaspoons of leaves in a tea strainer in a cup

  2. dash with 250 cold water

  3. bring to the boil

  4. drink in small sips

Use of tubers

Because the tubers look similar to genital warts, they have traditionally been used against warts.

The sharp juice of the root tubers can virtually etch away warts.

Use of flower buds

The buds of the flowers can be harvested and put into vinegar. You can use them as a replacement for capers.

Use of bulbils

The bulbil were dried earlier in bad times together with the root tubers and ground to flour.

Side effects

When using the fresh herb, poisoning by the containing protoanemonin may occur at higher dosage. During pregnancy and lactation should be dispensed with the internal intake of the herb. Likewise, toddlers should not take any fresh lesser celandine.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy lesser celandine – What is there to pay attention to?

Because it occurs abundantly in its natural habitats, it is possible to dig up the root tubers and put them in your own garden, provided that you have the owner’s permission and the site is not a nature reserve.

Finished plants can be purchased online or in garden centers or specialized plants-markets. The price is about 4 to 8 EUR/$ per plant.

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