Stuff In My Yard – Celandine Poppy

(My buddy Otter does a thing at her blog called “Stuff in my Tank” where, every now and again, she posts a photo and description of random interesting stuff in her saltwater tank. I am stealing this lock, stock, and barrel. We’ll see how it goes.)

Celandine Poppy

This gorgeous native wildflower is also called “wood poppy,” but my favorite name is “poppywort” because poppywort is just such a great word and sounds like the name of a mistreated scullion in a fantasy novel who will eventually rise to save the kingdom, unicorn optional. The “celandine” is because it resembles a non-native weed named celandine, muddying the waters of taxonomy nicely. And getting a “wort” on the end usually means stuff is medicinal, but so far as I know, the poppywort does nothing exciting other than look pretty.

It looks very very pretty, though.

It’s uncommon but occurs throughout most of the East. It’s endangered in Canada but not down here–yet–so I can feel good about growing it without feeling horribly guilty if it it dies. (I have avoided growing trillium because it’s too nerve-wracking. If a pot of something from Home Depot dies in the ground, eh, whatever, that’s life. If an endangered trillium dies in my yard, I feel like I just kicked a passenger pigeon.) Fortunately, not a problem with poppywort!

It is very yellow. The photo looks oversaturated, but it really is that crazy radioactive-lemon shade. I planted it in my shade border, which is currently a full-sun border, but is turning into a dappled-shade border as the leaves come in on the trees. Apparently this is the right condition to grow this plant–it does all the growing while the trees are bare, and then hangs out in the shade going “I’m a plant. Yup. Still a plant. Good to be a plant.” It’s already doubled in size since I put it in the ground a month ago, and it’s been flowering non-stop. It’s very low-maintenance so far.

Under the right conditions, it’s supposed to self-seed, which I’d be fine with, but I suspect it won’t be moist enough to actually take.

I know you can order them from Niche Gardens by mail–I picked mine up there on a whim, on the way to check out, because the yellow was just so crazy bright. Presumably it’s commercially available elsewhere as well. So far, I’m quite happy with it–we’ll see if it actually returns next spring, of course.


  • Hans says:

    Greetings! Poppywort isn’t used in modern medicine to my knowledge, but it is listed in Culpeper’s Herbal (in print since the 17th century) under “Yellow Horned Poppy”, and it was indeed regarded as a medicial plant:


    Description. This is a species of celandine. The root is long and thick at the head, divided into branches which fix themselves pretty deep in the earth; from which spring blueish-green winged leaves divided generally into five parts, somewhat like columbines, but longer, the section at the end being the largest.

    The stalks grow to be a foot or more high, full of thick joints or knees, having two smaller leaves at each joint: the flowers grow several together upon a foot-stalk three or four inches long, each having a shorter of its own; they consist of four small yellow leaves, included in calyces of two hollow parts; and after they are fallen, which they soon do, they are followed by pretty long narrow pods, full of the small round, shining black seed. Every part of the plant, when broken, emits a yellow, bitter, acrid juice.

    Place. It grows among waste grounds and rubbish upon walls and buildings.

    Time. It flowers in May.

    Virtues. Like its species, it is under the Sun in Leo; and is aperitive and cleansing, opening obstructions of the spleen and liver, and of great use in curing the jaundice and scurvy: some reckon it cordial, and a good antidote against the plague. Some quantity of it is put into aqua mirabilis.

    Outwardly it is used for sore eyes, to dry up the rheum, and take away specks and films, as also against tetters and ringworms, and scurfy breakings-out. The root dried and powdered, is a galsamic and sub-astringent. It is given against bloody-fluxes, and in other hæmorrhages, half a drachm for a dose.

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