5 April 2015


Finding running too inglorious, and gyms too intimate the only real exercise I deign to do is long walks on a Sunday. Which at first glance sounds lovely, but in reality means trudging down dual carriageways and looping round barren housing estates. However, today the sun came out, and everything was cheery, so I sought out somewhere a little more uplifting by walking along the banks of the River Mersey.

It was good to see Spring bursting into life. There were butterflies, ladybirds, birds, verdant greenery, and even some young people. Unfortunately there were sections of the river that smelt of dog poo and rat's piss, and I had to say hello to a scrawny topless man who evidently held Vladimir Putin as his style guru, but all in all it was lovely.

Large areas of the river banks were covered in a yellow flowering plant that looks like a buttercup but turns out to be Lesser Celandine.

Both are from the taxonomic family Ranunculaceae, which in Latin means Little Frog. These plants prefer damp conditions, so maybe, when the natural world was richer than it is now, frogs where frequently found hiding beneath these spring flowers. It's a nice thought but the family also includes delphiniums and clematis, so maybe not.

In fact, the name Celandine itself is a mystery too.  Apparently it is named after swallows because they both appear in spring.  Now, some sources say the word celandine comes from either the Latin or Greek for the word swallow - chelidonia or chelidon. But this got me thinking .... what's the latin name for the actual swallow bird?  Hirundo rustica.   Interesting. Not anything resembling chelidonia then? Hirundo is the latin for swallow. Hmm. 

Gilbert White, who wrote The Natural History of Selborne in 1789, comes to the rescue:
The swallow, though called the chimney-swallow, by no means builds altogether in chimnies, but often within barns and out-houses against the rafters ... In Sweden she builds in barns, and is called ladusvala, the barn-swallow.
 Is the 'svala' of ladusvala pronounced with a w sound rather than a v?   Do I have any Swedish readers who might be able to confirm this?

Perhaps my Celtic reader would like to comment on the celtic name for celandine: Grian - sun?

And 'Erdopffel'? Mediaeval German.


Happy Easter everyone