Look how they shine for you

By Jake Cleaver, in Renature · 13-11-2020 01:00:00 · 1 Comments

Every year after the first rain in autumn, along with nature’s rapidly growing green winter beard, the first floral displays to start decorating the ground with an explosion of colour are these pretty little yellow flowers.

They are my favourites, and I eagerly await their arrival every year and I’m always amazed how they never fail to spring eagerly out of a ground that seemed so barren and lifeless just a few short weeks ago.

This year I was determined to find out what they are. A lot easier these days, as instead of having to thumb through various plant books for the answer, I could simply upload a picture to the ‘Plantnet’ app (a facial recognition system for all things flora) to gather up all the likely contenders, and then double check my suspicions by asking the green keyboarded gardeners on the ‘Gardening in Portugal’ Facebook group for reassurance. We all concurred that they are the ‘Lesser Celandines’, or ‘Ronnucus Ficaria’, also known as ‘Fig Buttercups’.

They are described as ‘A small, low growing perennial herb in the Buttercup family. They have dark, heart shaped green leaves and yellow star-like flowers’. That’s them alright. And I was delighted to hear somebody else call them ‘star-like’, as it makes me feel a little less crazy that I feel compelled to hum Coldplays, “Look at the stars, look how they shine for you, and everything that you do, and they were all yellow”, as I walk past a bright yellow constellation scattered across the ground.

I was also pleased to find that I’m not the first person to appreciate them. They are mentioned in ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, when Aslan (the lion) returns and the woods turn from winter to spring. It says the children notice “wonderful things happening. Coming suddenly round a corner into a glade of silver birch trees Edmund saw the ground covered in all directions with little yellow flowers - celandines”.

Celandines traditionally flower in England in March until May and so are commonly thought of as the ‘spring messenger’. In fact, the name celandine comes from the Latin ‘chelidonia’ which means swallow, and it was said that the flowers bloomed when the swallows returned, and faded when they left.

Here in Portugal we see them not to signal the beginning of spring, but the start of autumn. I think it’s because without the cold and the frost that makes life difficult for plants to spring up in the winter in more northern countries, the milder climate of the Algarve means that, in a sense, we are lucky enough to ‘skip winter’, and things start to spring to life again after just a little rain falls. This is just as well, as after a long hot summer these early carpets of gold provide some much needed nectar to keep the local pollinators businesses buzzing.

I also discovered that the poet and wordsmith William Wordsworth, liked celandines as well. So much so that he wrote 3 poems about them. They are quite long and meandering, and with the greatest respect to Wordsworth, I’ve got a word limit for this article that I’m probably rapidly approaching. However, I think I have space for the first two verses of his poem ‘To the small Celandine’, as I was pleased to note that long before Coldplay, these beautiful shining flowers were thought of as stars as well:

Pansies, Lilies, Kingcups, Daisies,
Let them live upon their praises;
Long as there’s a sun that sets
Primroses will have their glory;
Long as there are Violets,
They will have a place in story:

There’s a flower that shall be mine,
‘Tis the little Celandine.

Eyes of some men travel far
For the finding of a star;
Up and down the heavens they go,
Men that keep a mighty rout!
I’m as great as they, I trow,
Since the day I found thee out,
Little flower!—I’ll make a stir
Like a great Astronomer.

Related articles


lovely article.....

By Melodie from Algarve on 14-11-2020 11:58
Interactive Topics, send us your comments/opinion on this article.

Please note that The Portugal News may use selected comments in the printed edition of the newspaper.