Lesser celandine – Ranunculus ficaria

March 22nd 2015

Lesser celandine – Ranunculus ficaria

Lesser celandine Ranunculus ficaria: the first flower we have seen this year. It was on a south-facing bank just east of the Glenleraig fank (NC154313), 21st March 2015.

The shiny patches towards the base of the petals absorb ultraviolet light, while the outer parts reflect it. To potential insect visitors, whose eyes are more sensitive to this end of the spectrum, the flowers must look like ‘bull’s-eyes’.

Mark Snowdon from Baddidarrach recently came across observations which suggest another function for these patches. They reduce the amount of ultraviolet light reflected onto the stamens, whose pollen can be degraded by it. Celandine derives from the Greek chelidon, the swallow, from a tradition that the flowers open as the swallows arrive; a bit ahead of them this far north!

Ian Evans

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