January is the worst month for wild flowers, it is probably the worst month for most things; weather, bills, and cricket, to name a few that come quickly to mind.
Also having done flower of the month for two years now, the options get less each year. I have chosen Lesser Celandine which grows at the bottom of our garden in Poitou-Charentes, it forms a carpet and when it flowers the bottom of the garden is virtually yellow. ‘when it flowers’ which will be at the very end of the month and mainly into February, but as I said, I am struggling to find a suitable candidate.
It is called Lesser Celandine because there is a Greater Celandine which is more commonly know as Marsh Marigold. It is a member of the Buttercup family or Ranunculaceae. It was also known as Pilewort. Wort is used in many plant names and is simply an Anglo Saxon word meaning plant. So Pilewort as you might expect was a plant used in days gone by to rid you of piles……Hmm.
The plant is a perennial, ie it comes up every year and it has tiny little tubers on the roots, these look like very, very, small potatoes. The leaves are heart shaped and quite often have a variegated pattern on them. My Father was a keen gardener and like many old gardeners was not adverse to helping himself to a small cutting or other propagate able part of a plant when he visited other peoples gardens. Thus it was that he had in his garden some Lesser Celandine which he had sourced from Blenheim Palace, home of the Churchill family. This cultivar had highly verigated leaves and was quite attractive.
The leaves are also edible, though I have not tried them. It says in my Hamylyn Guide to Edible and Medicinal Plants ‘The first leaves make an excellent salad or can be used in sandwiches. Leaves stalks and buds are used in the same way as spinach; buds on their own preserved in vinegar make a substitute for capers. The root bulbils (they mean tubers) are served with meat (stew in salted water until soft, strain and put in vinegar) or as a vegetable stew briefly in salted water, strain, sauté in butter, thicken with cornflower, season and serve.’
Well I think that eating the leaves might be worthwhile, but the tubers are so small that the collection of sufficient to make a helping would be extremely time consuming. Also it would not do the plant a lot of good.
The French name for this plant is Ficaire, or Petite Chélidoine.