Lesser Celandine ~ Ficaria subspecies

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Fic vern vern
Lesser Celandine Ficaria verna subsp. verna (Wetheral)

There are two subspecies of Lesser Celandine in Cumbria. Both are common!

These are genetically distinct forms, existing at different ploidy levels (i.e. differing numbers of chromosomes in the cell), with little hybridization between them. Their current names are:

Ficaria verna subspecies fertilis, a normally flowering form;

Ficaria verna subspecies verna, a form only partially fertile, and reproducing very largely by tubers.

In the early season, there is little concrete difference to separate these two. The flowers of fertilis often look ‘fuller’, with wider and mostly longer petals, though there is considerable overlap. As the season progresses, however, the essential difference appears: verna consistently produces small pale ovoid or more elongated tubers in the axils (points of emergence: ‘armpits’) of the leaves. (Note: both forms over-winter by means of elongated tubers at root level.) Subspecies fertilis normally produces a ‘full head’ of fruit, but verna produces few ripe fruits, the rest remaining small, and hence the head appears mis-shapen. (To remember which is which: fertilis is the one producing the fertile seed. Curiously, the ‘typical’ subspecies, i.e. ‘verna subspecies verna’ is the one which seems the aberrant one!)

vern fert heads
Subspecies fertilis (Sockbridge) ~ ‘full heads’ of ripening fruits
Fic vern vern fruits copy
Subspecies verna (Wetheral) ~ few ripening fruits
vern vern tubers 1
Subspecies verna (Wetheral) ~ few ripening fruits
vern vern stem
Subspecies verna (Wetheral) ~ stem
vern vern tubers 2
Subspecies verna (Wetheral) ~ typical pair of tubers in leaf axils
vern vern tubers 3
Subspecies verna (Wetheral) ~ cluster of tubers in leaf axils

JR 9 May 2016

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