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The Celandine flower is unique in nature as it shows up as Greater Celandine, Lesser Celandine and the Celandine Poppy. While being wildflowers, the Greater Celandine and Celandine Poppy belong to the Poppy family (Papaveraceae) but the Lesser Celandine belongs to the Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae)! Then why are they named the same you may ask? Because the flowers of the Lesser Celandine flower resemble that of the Greater Celandine, except in size.

Interestingly, the Celandine flower meaning is from the Greek ‘chelidon’ which means ‘swallow’, referring to the bird. It was observed that the flowers bloomed with the arrival of the swallows and when the swallows departed, the blooms died.

Scientific Names & History

  • The Greater Celandine, is scientifically known as Chelidonium majus, and is commonly referred to as the Swallow wort. Introduced in North America in the 1600s from Eurasia, for its medicinal properties.

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  • The Celandine Poppy, is scientifically known as Stylophorum diphyllum. It is commonly called as Wood Poppies. It is native to North America and China, and grows as a garden plant.
  • The Lesser Celandine’s scientific name is Ficaria verna syn Ranunculus ficaria, commonly called the Fig Buttercup. It arrived in North America from Eurasia in the 1800s as an ornamental plant.

Optimal Conditions for Growth

The blooming season of the Celandines vary with the Greater Celandine flowers appearing from May to August, the Lesser Celandine flowering March to May and the Celandine Poppies blooming from April to June.

All the three Celandines grow in shaded areas with partial sunlight. The Greater Celandine and Celandine Poppy require high organic matter in the soil for better growth. All three prefer soils with good drainage.

Though the Greater and Lesser Celandine belong to different families, you need a keen eye for detail to spot the differences initially.

Symbolism of Celandine flowers:

The Lesser Celandine flower meaning is associated symbolically with the return of the Sun (Europe). This is because they bloom from March through May, signalling the arrival of spring after the cold winter. It symbolically serves as a reminder that seasons change

During the Victorian era, they symbolized the prospect of ‘joys to come’. Floriography or the language of flowers, where each flower and color were given a meaning, reached its peak popularity during this era. So the Lesser Celandine flower meaning heralded hope and cheer in the minds of people, giving them something to look forward to.

The flowers of the Papaveraceae family symbolize fertility, remembrance and sacrifice. Additionally, they are associated with peace, sleep, pleasure, hope and resilience.

Various colors of the Celandine flower and their meaning:

The Lesser Celandine flower appear in 3 colors – yellow, white and green. The Greater Celandine and the Celandine Poppy are both yellow. The Celandine flower meaning for each color is different, and they are:

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  • White representing peace, innocence, humility, elegance, healing and sympathy. (Shown in the pic – Salmon’s White, a cultivar)

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  • Yellow meaning energy, joy, friendship, youthfulness, hope and happiness. (Shown in the pic Collarette, a cultivar)
  • Green meaning growth, new beginnings, wealth and good fortune.

Interesting facts and characteristics of the Celandine flower:

  • The Greater Celandine is a biennial or short-lived perennial, whereas the Lesser Celandine is a perennial.
  • The Greater and the Lesser Celandine are non-native plants, while the Celandine Poppy is native to North America.
  • The Greater Celandine plant grows to a height of 75 cm (29.5 inches) while the Lesser Celandine grows a few inches off the ground. The Celandine Poppies can grow up to 2 ft.
  • The Greater Celandine flower has 4 petals, similar to the Celandine Poppy while the Lesser Celandine has 7-12 petals.
  • The Greater Celandine and Celandine Poppy produce only pollen and no nectar.
  • The Lesser Celandine has 2 different types of leaf attachment – the basal leaves are opposite while the leaves above are attached alternately.
  • The leaves of the Greater Celandine are compound and attached alternately.
  • The Lesser Celandine has heart shaped leaves while the Greater Celandine has ovate leaves.
  • Lesser Celandine spreads through tubers and bulb lets, while the Greater Celandine and Celandine Poppy spread through seeds.
  • The seed pods of the Greater Celandine is cylindrical and narrow at the end whereas the Celandine Poppy is ovoid and covered with bristles.
  • The seeds of the Celandine (Greater and Poppy) have elaiosomes which are fleshy structures rich in proteins. These are very attractive to ants which carry them to their nests, causing seed dispersal.
  • All the Celandine namesakes have yellow flowers, the size of the Celandine Poppies are double the size of the Greater Celandine.
  • The orange yellow sap found in Celandine Poppy were used by Native Americans as a dye for baskets and fiber. The color was also used as war paint.
  • The Lesser Celandine gets its common name of ‘Fig Buttercup’ because the underground tubers are shaped as a fig. The shape of the flower is like that of a buttercup. In turn, the buttercup is called so, for people mistakenly associated the color of butter to be yellow because of the cows eating these flowers!
  • The Lesser Celandine is also called as ‘spring ephemeral’. They bloom in spring and suddenly disappear from the surface.
  • The different cultivars of the Lesser Celandine are namely: Collarette (double yellow flowers), Salmon’s white(open shaped flowers), Brambling cultivar (unusual bronze horseshoe shaped foliage).
  • The Celandine Poppies attract pollinators and chipmunks and mice eat their seeds.
  • The Greater Celandine is considered as a medicinal herb, used mainly to treat warts, eye infections, liver diseases, and to relieve tooth-ache. The Lesser Celandine is used for treating hemorrhoids and ulcers, a traditional treatment for piles, leaves and petals have been used to clean teeth.
  • The edible parts of the Lesser Celandine are the leaves especially before the plant flowers and the starchy roots. The parts have to be cooked before consumption, otherwise they are toxic.
  • A note of caution – though these plants have medicinal properties, they also have toxic elements which have high to low severity. So exercise caution while using.

Best time to gift someone Celandine flowers

The Celandine flower meaning list gives us a reason to gift the flowers appropriately. Wildflowers in bouquets are always a welcome sight, for it brings in the naturally growing flowers into the cultivated varieties.

Gifting someone with yellow flowers is appropriate when you wish to cheer up a friend, offer congratulations on an achievement, renew the bonds of friendship. And since the predominant color of the Celandines is yellow, they bring freshness and brightness to a bouquet.

While flowers are usually gifted, you could also gift the plant to someone with a garden for them to enjoy the beauty of the flowers for a longer time.