Greater celandine, Chelidonium majus L.

Life Cycle

Biennial or sometimes a short-lived perennial. Reproducing only by seed.


Celandine can be propagated by seeds or by division. Seed into plug trays or directly into the field. The seed will germnate in 2 – 3 weeks.


Stems up to 80 cm high containing an orange-coloured juice/sap, hairy in the lower part but smooth towards the top, succulent, rather brittle.


Yellow-green, pinnate leaves are made up of pairs of oblong leaflets and a large terminal leaflet. Leaves of first-year plants basal, green or bluish-green, smooth, divided into usually 5 or 7 segments with rounded teeth or coarse lobes; stem leaves of second-year plants alternate (1 per node), similar but usually smaller. Leaves also exude orange sap when damaged.

Flowers and Fruit

Flowers are yellow, usually in umbel-like clusters at the ends of short branches; sepals 2; petals 4, spreading about 2cm across; stamens numerous and 1 slender pistil; seedpods 2.5-5 cm long and opening on 2 sides from the bottom upwards. Flowering may begin in late April and continue throughout the summer and fall.

Roots and Underground Structures

Thick, multi-branched taproot.


Originated in Europe, W. Asia. Celandine has naturalized in parts of North America. It can tolerate most soil types but grows best in rich soil. Occurs in scattered locations throughout southern Ontario, occasionally being a common weed in moist soils around farmyards, in waste areas, along roadsides and edges of woods.

Distinguishing Features

Easily identified by its characteristic saffron-coloured juice, smooth divided leaves with coarsely lobed divisions, and yellow flowers with numerous stamens.

Figure #1.

A. Base of second year plant. B. Top of flowering and fruiting stem.

Figure #2.

Celandine along roadside in Southern Ontario, beginning of June.

Figure #3.

Bright yellow flowers of celandine.

Figure #4.

Flower and seedpod of celandine.

Figure #5.

Long, slender seedpods of celandine.

Figure #6.

Stem (upper) of celandine.

Figure #7.

Leaves of celandine.

Figure #8.

Orange-coloured juice of celandine.