I recall when I was very young often asking my father the names of various plants, specially the flowers of the beautiful wild weeds in the garden. I remember him looking at me and saying: “Why do you call them weeds? They are only another pretty flower that as yet we do not know their names.”
In our garden in France we do not to use chemical pesticides, and as much as possible we have learnt to live with the wild flowers. There are patches, specially near the river bed that all sorts of wild plants grow. They seem to add some special charm to the rustic nature of our garden.
There are, nevertheless a number of plants that I have systematically pulled out, as they tend to become invasive. One such weed is a little green plant with yellow flower that often grows in the crack of the walls. It is pretty whilst it is in flower and is still small, but the plant soon seems to grow smothering anything else around it.
A couple of weeks ago when, in Amelia’s absence, I visited the Fête de Printemps at the neighbouring village, I noticed that one nursery lady had potted the very same plant and was selling them, each at 4 Euros! I learnt that the little plant is called in French chélidoine, or the Chelidonium majus (greater celandine).
This plant does have a confusing name, as the greater celandine actually belongs to the poppy family, whereas the lesser celandine which frequently grows along the paths in early spring belongs to the buttercup family. We have a clump of lesser celandine at the bottom of the garden which attracts a lot of bees and butterflies in the early spring, much to Amelia’s delight.
The orange colour juice (the latex) oozing out of the cut stems has been used throughout centuries for the treatment of warts, giving the common name of the plant as tetterwort. Different parts of the plant have numerous pharmacological properties. It is said to be analgesic, and the latex has also been used to cauterize small wounds.
The greater celandine is considered toxic and should be handled with a little care as it might be allergenic and cause dermatitis. Nevertheless, I will not dig this little plant as ruthlessly as I used to do and remembering what my father told me, I have yet again gained greater respect for the weeds that often I do not know their names.