Celandine. What’s in a name?

Styllophorum diphyllum wood poppy or celandine poppy…The Good Celandine!

What’s in a name? Celandine is a word that is popping up on many social media gardening sites. A terribly invasive, introduced plant, with the common name of lesser celandine, Ficaria verna, is blooming right now and gardeners are focused on how to control or eradicate it. Attractive scalloped green leaves appear in early spring, followed by bright yellow rayed flowers which blanket the ground in a monocultural mat. Lesser celandine goes dormant by the end of May, but the damage is done, with the plant crowding out native vegetation. This includes beneficial herbaceous plants that absorb rainwater. When lesser celandine becomes dormant the bare earth left behind can be prone to erosion. Control is very difficult. The moment you see it in your garden begin pulling it. Large infestations will likely require the use of herbicide. https://www.brandywine.org/conservancy/blog/invasive-species-spotlight-lesser-celandine-ficaria-verna

Ficaria verna or lesser celandine invading a lawn in Old Westbury Gardens in New York

Chelidonium majus, or greater celandine, is another invasive. A member of the poppy family, its divided leaves bear a passing resemblance to our native wood poppy, but the flowers are much less showy. Hand pull it to control. Like wood poppies, greater celandine exudes a yellowish sap when cut, so wear gloves or wash your hands after pulling.

Chelidonium majus commonly greater celandine

The GOOD celandine is pictured at the top of this post!

Wood poppy is botanically Styllophorum diphyllum. It is a stellar plant despite the inclusion of “celandine” in its common name. Native to North America, the foliage stays attractive through much of the growing season. It re-seeds where its happy, especially in rich well-drained soil. It thrives in shade to part shade and is a good choice for colonizing a woodland garden. Pair it with woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) for a pretty spring vignette. Deer leave woodland poppies alone, repelled by same sap present in Chelidonium majus.

Allow the fuzzy seedheads to remain on the plant and you’ll have small poppies popping up the following spring. They’re easy to move and share with friends.

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