A host, of golden celandines blossom in Britain

A A A

And you thought it was the daffodil. But no, Wordsworth's favourite wild flower was actually something quite different.

And you thought it was the daffodil. But no, Wordsworth's favourite wild flower was actually something quite different.

The bloom that captured the heart of England's greatest nature poet is smaller and comes out earlier as the first flower of spring (the snowdrop appears at winter's end).

It is the lesser celandine, a bright-yellow member of the buttercup family, which brings the first splash of colour in the last two weeks of February. Wordsworth wrote three poems about it, and only one to daffodils - "I wandered lonely as a cloud" - which is better known.

So the grand old man would be pleased to find that 200 years after he wrote about them, lesser celandines appear to be spreading more successfully than any other British wild plant.

Their success is shown in the annual survey of Britain's flora by the wildflower charity Plantlife. The Common Plants Survey, which checks 65 familiar species, tries to do for plants what the long-running annual surveys of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) have done for birds. Begun in the 1960s, the latter have shown with startling clarity and statistical robustness the fluctuating fortunes of Britain's breeding birds.

The BTO and Plantlife surveys are done by volunteers who report on species in one area over the years. The Plantlife survey began only in 2000, so the data available is not yet long enough to establish definite trends. But the lesser celandine has appeared in 35 per cent of the monitored plots in 2000-04. Ranunculus ficaria is not very mobile, so this is a puzzle. Five species seem to be going down: bird's-foot trefoil, red clover, great willowherb, meadowsweet and silverweed. Plantlife says it is too early to give reasons. The charity, which can be e-mailed on enquiries@plantlife.org.uk is very keen for more volunteers for the survey.

Wordsworth appreciated them as harbingers of spring. This may be the origin of their name, which appears to come from the Greek word chelidon, meaning swallow. Although celandines appear two months before the swallows, they might be thought of as their flower-equivalents.

The lesser celandine is not to be confused with the greater celandine Chelidonium majus, a much more upright plant from a different family (poppies, rather than buttercups).

This confusion affected Wordsworth, after he died. Such was his love for the smaller flower it was suggested as a decoration on his grave at Grasmere in the Lake District. But the mason mistakenly put the likeness of the larger plant on his monument.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory