Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Lesser Celandine

Who knew?

I saw these lovely yellow flowers, with their fleshy heart-shaped leaves, growing in a streamside glade on the banks of Trout Brook, here in West Hartford.

How lovely!  But, after looking in my wildflower books, and searching online,  I couldn't identify them.  I took a photo and sent it to the New England Wildflower Society.  No answer.

I dug up a few for my garden and tentatively identified them as marsh marigold, caltha palustris.  This is what marsh marigold looks like:

This is marsh marigold, caltha palustris

Somebody out there with a botanical vocabulary, help me out!  The petals aren't the same.  How do you say that in botanical?

Then today, in the Metropolitan section of the New York Times, I saw the true identification.  Writer Mariella Anzelone, tracking the progress of spring in a patch of forest on Staten Island, published a photo of the plants I saw growing by Trout Brook and identified them as the lesser celandine, ranunculus ficaria, an exotic species that emerges earlier than our native flora. 

These are the flowers I saw growing in that moist glade on the banks of Trout Brook . I could tell because the heart-shaped leaves had dark veins in their centers.  These flowers weren't in any of my wildflower books because they are an introduced invasive.  Thank you to New York Times writer Mariella Anzelone for solving a mystery that I, with my wildflower books, and the New England Wildflower Society, was unable to solve.

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