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Chelidonium majus facts for kids

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Chelidonium majus
Scientific classification
  • Chelidonium cavaleriei H.Lév.
  • Chelidonium dahuricum DC.
  • Chelidonium grandiflorum DC.
  • Chelidonium haematodes Moench
  • Chelidonium laciniatum Mill.
  • Chelidonium luteum Gilib. nom. inval.
  • Chelidonium murale P.Renault
  • Chelidonium olidum Tarscher. ex Ott
  • Chelidonium quercifolium Willemet
  • Chelidonium ruderale Salisb.
  • Chelidonium umbelliferum Stokes

Chelidonium majus, commonly known as greater celandine, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the poppy family (Papaveraceae). It is one of two species in the genus Chelidonium. It is native to Europe and western Asia and introduced widely in North America.

While greater celandine belongs to the poppy family, lesser celandine (Ficaria verna) belongs to the buttercup family.


Greater celandine is a perennial herb with an erect habit, and reaches 30–120 cm (12–47 in) high. The blue-green leaves are pinnate with lobed and wavy margins, up to 30 cm (12 in) long. When injured, the plant exudes a yellow to orange latex, or sap.

The flowers consist of four yellow petals, each about 18 mm (0.71 in) long, with two sepals. A double-flowered variety occurs naturally. The flowers appear from late spring to summer, May to September (in UK), in umbelliform cymes of about 4 flowers.

The seeds are small and black, borne in a long, cylindrical capsule. Each has an elaiosome, which attracts ants to disperse the seeds (myrmecochory).

Taxonomy and naming

The greater celandine is one of the many species described by the father of taxonomy, Carl Linnaeus, in volume one of his Species Plantarum in 1753.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the name celandine comes from Late Latin celidonia, from earlier Latin chelidonia or chelidonium, and ultimately from Ancient Greek χελιδόνιον, from χελιδών (chelidṓn) "swallow", hence the common name "swallowwort". Ancient writers said that the flower bloomed when the swallows returned and faded when they left. Chelidonium majus has also been called great celandine,, nipplewort, tetterwort, or simply "celandine". The common name tetterwort also refers to Sanguinaria canadensis.

In Devon it is also known as St John's wort.

Distribution and habitat

Chelidonium majus is native in most regions of Europe. It is also found in North Africa in Macaronesia, Algeria and Morocco. In Western Asia it is found in the Caucasus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Siberia, Iran and Turkey.


It is considered an aggressive invasive plant in parts of North America, and an invasive plant in other areas. In Wisconsin, for example, it is a restricted plant. Control is obtained mainly via pulling or spraying the plant before seed dispersal.

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