|Greater Celandine in Bell Lane, Byfield.|
1 May, 2013
One easy way to identify the plant is to break off a leaf; the wound will bleed a bright orange juice. The whole plant is toxic and the juice contains about a dozen alkaloids of considerable medical interest. Unsurprisingly, given that it is related to the Opium Poppy, Greater Celandine is said to be mildly narcotic. It was much used by herbalists over the centuries and my 1923 copy of 'Potter's Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations' states: 'The fresh juice makes an excellent application for corns and warts'. It also suggests that it may be used 'in jaundice, scrofulous diseases, eczema,&c'. A trawl through the internet reveals many other odd facts.
The plant may be native to Britain or it could have been introduced centuries ago by herbalists. Certainly I have only ever found it associated with human habitation but in this type of situation it is found throughout Northamptonshire. The flowers are normally 4-petalled but the plants around Byfield often have six or more - see photograph.