Lesser Celandine: A Petite Wonder with Deep Symbolic Roots

Lesser celandine (Ficaria verna) may be an attractive ground cover plant with its own history and meaning, but it’s also considered an invasive problem in many areas. It’s also known as a fig buttercup due to its attractive green leaves. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about the meaning and symbolism of Lesser celandine in the language of flowers.

Ultimate Guide to Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna)

Lesser Celandine Symbolism – Key Takeaways

Lesser celandine has long held the symbolic meaning of the return of the sun’s power in the spring in European cultures. It also earned the meaning of a cure-all herb during the medieval period and became a symbol of good things to come during the Victorian era.

Etymological Meaning

The Ficaria verna name comes from the Latin diminutive for figs. Lesser celandine was chosen as its name due to its flowers resembling those of the Greater celandine. Verna refers to its habit of growing and flowering early in the spring rather than during the rest of the summer and fall.

Lesser Celandine Meaning & Symbolism

A close shot of a yellow Lesser Celandine in bloom

The color of every flower also plays a role in its exact meaning in the language of flowers. Thankfully, Lesser celandines only come in three different color variations to make it easy to narrow down the symbolism of the bloom.

  • White: This flower color means sympathy, healing, peace, humility, elegance, and innocence.
  • Yellow: This color means happiness, energy, youthfulness, joy, friendship, and hope.
  • Green: This flower symbolizes new beginnings, growth, wealth, good fortune, and healing.

The Cultural Significance of Lesser Celandine

Lesser Celandine ground cover flowers in bloom

Early Blooming

One of Lesser celandine’s most enduring meanings is its habit of blooming early. In the cooler parts of Asia and Northern Europe, it can be one of the earliest flowers to emerge in the spring. This lent it a meaning of hopefulness and looking forward to the future. As an early spring flower, it’s a cheerful reminder that winter eventually ends no matter how difficult it was. 

The flower is also known as Grian in Gaelic, a reference to the sun. This links it to the symbolism of the return of the sun each year, giving it a hopeful meaning throughout most of European folklore.

Historical Heal-All

In addition to being a symbol of spring and rebirth, Lesser Celandine took on another meaning during the Medieval period. European cultures across the continent gave the plant a meaning of healing and made it a general cure-all. It was widely recommended in the oldest written materials to treat everything from insomnia to pain. Lesser celandine even ended up linked to increasing milk production when hung in the cow barn, even though it’s unsafe to feed to the cows themselves.

Victorian Symbolism

The Victorians assigned meaning to practically every flower they cultivated, including the sometimes troublesome Lesser celandine. 

With a long history of symbolizing hopefulness in Europe, it’s unsurprising that it was assigned the meaning of “joy to come” in the Victorian flower language. People would include it as part of a bouquet to wish hope and joy for the recipient, especially if they were going through a hard time.


Lesser celandine may be a beautiful low-growing plant with a rich history and symbolism. But it can also become a problem that drives out other more sensitive wetland plants if it is allowed to spread without control. Therefore, it is important to take responsibility for any lesser celandine you plant and keep it contained.

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