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Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus L.)

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Greater Celandine
Photo © Zygy, Public Domain.


A bienniel or short-lived perennial native to Europe and nearby, introduced in North America, where it is invasive in cooler, northern areas.

Range - Expand

Introduced or Not Present

This map is based on our research. We have checked its accuracy to Level 3 ecoregions. Although this plant occurs somewhere in each of these regions, it may only occur in a small part of some or all of them.

Similar Plants

thumbnail of Celandine Poppy
Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum)
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In its native range, this species is found in woodlands, on rocky slopes, and also in waste areas, along roadsides, gardens, and urban areas. Found in full sun to part shade.

Its habitat preferences in North America seem to be similar, including woodlands, waste areas, and roadsides, as well as gardens and urban areas including parks and semi-wild areas.

This species seems to be restricted to the parts of North America with a cooler climate, and is most common in the northeast, extending into the southern Appalachians at higher altitudes, and it is also fairly widely established in a narrower band throughout the midwest, and has a scattered distribution throughout, including in the northwest, but it is absent from the southern parts of the U.S.

Life Cycle

This species is a biennial or, occasionally, a short-lived perennial.

First-year plants grow only a rosette of leaves.

In their second year, plants begin to grow upright, and often branch repeatedly. Growth is upright if supported by other vegetation, or sprawling if not. Plants bloom in summer, typically over a period of 1-2 months. Flowers may be pollinated by insects, but are also self-fertile.

Seed production is incremental, with seed pods beginning to form as the plant is still producing new flowers. Seeds begin ripening in mid summer and continue into early fall. Seeds are distributed by ants.

Seeds begin germinating in the following year, but germination is erratic and gradual, distributed over a long period of time. Seeds may germinate at any time of year, but usually do so during a period of moderate temperatures. This species can persist for over a year in the seed bank, but we could not find research on exactly how long it persists. Its staggered germination period makes it well-adapted to disturbance and able to thrive in habitats that experience irregular, unpredictable disturbances.

Plants do not reproduce vegetatively. They often die after producing seed.

Faunal Associations

This plant has low value to wildlife, especially in North America. The flowers produce only pollen and no nectar; they are likely visited by some bees and flies, but not particularly important to these insects. Their seeds are eaten by ants. The foliage and sap is toxic and thus most of the plant is ignored by mammalian herbivores, and probably not favored by insect herbivores either.


This plant can be controlled by uprooting plants before they set seed. Plants are shallow-rooted and usually easy to uproot by hand. Care must be taken to wear protective clothing and gloves, as the plant's sap is an irritant.

This species has hydrophobic leaves, and as such does not absorb herbicide well without the addition of a surfactant. Surfactants can be damaging to aquatic life and can also make it more likely that the herbicide will damage surrounding plants. As this plant typically grows together with other, often native plants, and is often found near water, in most cases it is best controlled manually. However, herbicide, with the use of surfactants, can be effective at controlling large monocultures when it is safe to do so.

As this species is a prolific seeder, timing of control is critical, and it is easier to prevent establishment by spotting and pulling individual plants than it is to control this plant once it has become dominant on a site. Once it has gone to seed on a site, it may be necessary to return for several years to fully eliminate it, due to its persistence in the seed bank.


This plant has some uses in traditional medicine. However, it has considerable toxicity and is not generally recognized as safe.

It was historically used as a garden plant but its invasiveness has been known for some time, and its use in gardens has mostly been discontinued, except in the Pacific Northwest where it is still occasionally planted. Double-flower cultivars exist, which have eight petals; both due to these extra petals not hindering pollination, and the fact that these plants are self-fertile, the double-flower trait can sometimes persist in wild populations.

This species is the only member of its genus in North America, but there are other members of the broader Chelidonieae tribe. On this continent, its closest relative is the native and visually-similar celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum), and it is not particularly closely related to the other members.

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Photo © Akiva, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Photo © Zygy, Public Domain.
Photo © Emily Rollinson, Public Domain.
Photo © hitefamily, CC BY 4.0.
Photo © Ron Burkert, CC BY 4.0.