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Lesser Celandine

Lesser Celandine: Figwort, Smallwort, Pilewort.  Ranunculus Ficaria:          N.O. Ranunculaceae

One of the earliest spring flowers. Common in hedgerows and moist corners of fields. Will grow as high as 2400 feet (Wales) The blossoms close before rain and even in fine weather do not open before nine o’clock and by five have closed for the night.

Parts used: whole herb; collected in March and April, while in flower, and dried.

Medicinal Actions and uses: Astringent: this herb is an old remedy for piles; indeed it could be considered a specific.
      Internally, the infusion of 1 oz. in a pint of boiling water taken in wineglassful doses, and will in most cases be sufficient to effect a cure.
      Externally; an ointment made from the bruised herb with fresh lard applied locally, night and morning, or in the form of poultices, fomentations, or suppositories.

Culpepper tells us, "... it is certain by good experience that the decoction of the leaves and roots doth wonderfully help piles and hæmorroids; also kernels by the ears and throat called the 'Kings Evil', or any other hard wens or tumours...” And then, rather fancifully adds, "... the very herb borne about one's body next the skin helps in such diseases, though it never touch the place grieved..."

Reproduction: The roots form tubers each of which, like potatoes, can form a new plant. If carefully dug from the ground in late summer or autumn these tubers can be seen, hanging in a bunch of a dozen or more together, looking like figs; hence the plant's specific name 'ficaria'.
   As the flowers are too early to attract many insects for pollination those plants that are not fertilised develop 'bulbils', about the size of a wheat grain, in the angle between the upper leaves and the stem. In early summer, as the foliage withers, these 'bulbils' drop to the ground; each is capable of producing a new plant.