Chelidonium majus L.
Greater celandine, celandine
This native of Eurasia was introduced to North America, where it is now widespread.
Plants: Greater celandine reaches 18-24" (45-60 cm) in height, with ribbed stems. Leaves contain an irritating yellow-orange sap.
Leaves: Leaves are up to 8" (20 cm) long and 3" (7.6 cm) wide, compound in groups of 5 to 9, green with a slight bluish tint.
Fruits: Seed capsules look like thin beans, ¾-2½" (1.9-6.3 cm) long, with black seeds.
Sometimes these are confused:
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|Plant||Plants reach 12-18" (30-45 cm). Stems and leaves exude a bright yellow-orange sap when cut.||Low-growing, 4-14" (10-35 cm) in height. It is a perennial that stores energy in numerous white finger-like tubers.||Greater celandine reaches 18-24" (45-60 cm) in height, with ribbed stems. Leaves contain an irritating yellow-orange sap.|
|Flowers||Each flower has four partially overlapping yellow petals, two sepals (which fall away early after flowering), a knobby stigma, and multiple yellow-orange stamens. They appear in groups of one to four, and are 1¼-2" (3.2-5.7 cm) around. Flowers May-June.||Up to 1" (2.5 cm) around, with 7-12 glossy yellow petal-like tepals, and 3 sepal-like tepals (confused yet?). They appear as early as February, or, further north, from April-May.||About ¾" (1.9 cm) around, with four yellow non-overlapping petals, a stiff green central style, and multiple yellow stamens.|
|Leaves||This plant has basal leaves, as well as a pair of opposite leaves on the stem, both up to 6" (15 cm) × 4" (10 cm). Leaves are divided into 3-5 lobes which in turn are further divided, making them bipinnatifid. Leaf surfaces are dark green and hairless, while leaf undersides are pale as a result of fine hairs. Leaf stems (petioles) are up to 4" (10 cm) long.||Thick, heart-shaped (cordate), spirally arranged, ¾-1½" (1.9-3.8 cm), on long stems (petioles). Leaves are sometimes mottled with darker green patches.||Up to 8" (20 cm) long and 3" (7.6 cm) wide, compound in groups of 5 to 9, green with a slight bluish tint.|
|Fruit||Bristly blue-green ovoid seed pods ¾-1" (1.9-2.5 cm).||Achenes are spherical, up to ⅜" (1.3 cm) around.||Seed capsules look like thin beans, ¾-2½" (1.9-6.3 cm) long, with black seeds.|
USDA Zones: 4-9
USDA Zones: 4-8
|Habitats||Dry deciduous woodlands, bases of bluffs, and rocky stream banks.||It prefers damp shady areas, and weedy places. It often carpets large areas.||Moist or dry woods, thickets, fields, hedgerows, roadsides, railroads|
Edibility: Poisonous Stem juice is toxic and extremely irritating and allergenic. Paralysis, nausea, vomiting, coma, respiratory tract irritation, violent coughing, ulcers, and dyspnoea have been attributed to this plant.. More recently, it has been implicated in liver disease as well.
Medical: Greater celandine has been used for many different medical purposes historically (see footnotes 1 and 2), but I don’t believe any of these uses have been confirmed with research.
Chelidonium majus on Ontario Wildflowers
Chelidonium majus at Illinois Wildflowers
Chelidonium majus from all-creatures.org
Chelidonium majus on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants
Chelidonium majus on CalPhotos
Chelidonium majus at Minnesota Wildflowers
1For details, see Plants for a Future
2Henriette’s Herbal Homepage
Chelidonium majus description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.
Range: Zones 4-8: