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.

Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect