Thursday, June 2, 2011

Celandine Poppy

Note the single yellow flowers and the fuzzy, drooping seed pod.

The newest native addition to my garden is the Celandine Poppy, Stylophorum diphyllum. It is a Midwestern native, but I have seen it growing in gardens here in the northeast where its large, clear yellow flowers and light blue-green foliage brighten up a shady spot. It is a mid-spring bloomer. Another reason I was interested in knowing this plant is its similarity to the introduced and quite weedy Greater Celandine, Chelidonium majus, a Eurasian native.

I had gotten into the habit of weeding out any plant with divided leaves, yellow flowers and light green foliage, assuming it was always Greater Celandine. One day I started to rip some out in a client’s garden and was told that this was not a weed and was in fact the native Celendine. So I figured I should learn to tell these plants apart.
Anyone who has pulled up either of these plants has seen the bright yellow or orange juice that can stain clothes. So that does not help distinguish the plants. The leaves are different, but both are deeply lobed and of the same general color. The easiest way I see to distinguish these plants is with the flowers and seed pods. The native Celandine poppy has large (nearly 2 inches) yellow flowers, borne singly, which matures to a single fuzzy pod that droops toward the ground.

Note the upright seedpods
of Greater Celandine
Greater Celandine has much smaller yellow flowers (1/2 inch) borne in small umbels. The seed pods are bean-like and project upwards. Also the leaves are arranged alternately on the stem, while for the Celandine Poppy all of the leaves occurs opposite one another; however this can be tricky to spot in a mass of foliage.

The plants have only been in for a week in a shady area that maintains slightly moist soil. Now we’ll see how it performs over the rest of the summer and how it looks when it comes back next year.

Since there are no natural populations of Celandine Poppy in Massachusetts, I’m sure I did not damage any native plants, but still it’s good to know how to tell these plants apart, especially now that I have some in the ground.

2 comments: said...

Great post. I think this is one of the hardest to tell apart. Some references say only the Greater Celandine has yellow sap but I've found that both do.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much!! Very helpful. I'm so glad to learn that I have the native plant residing in my garden. I enjoy it every spring & was sorry to learn that it might be on the invasive list. I'm in the Boston area . I was in DC, the national arboretum, last week & they have a whole section on native plants with Celandine Poppy featured. Thank You