Plants - Native Plants and Wildflowers

Natural selection: Celandine poppy

These rare gems are making a gradual comeback in shady Ontario gardens.

Celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum)
* Zone 4
* Native from Ontario south to Arkansas and Georgia

Also known as the wood poppy, the genus Stylo­phorum contains just three species, the other two being native to China. A consum­mate deciduous-woodland perennial, the celandine poppy grows in moist, humus-rich soil in part to full shade, and bears golden yellow flowers three to five centimetres wide from mid-spring to early summer.

Stylophorum seeds have fleshy, lipid- and protein-rich elaiosomes attached to them that attract ants; the ants take the elaiosomes back to their colonies to feed their larvae and then disperse the seeds in nutrient-rich ground away from their nests—a perfect example of symbiosis. Chipmunks are also fond of snacking on celandine poppy seeds.

Once believed to be extirpated in Ontario, a native population was recently discovered near London, and although still rare in the wild, thanks to the efforts of diligent gardeners it is becoming increasingly common in shady gardens. Not to be confused with the invasive Eurasian greater celandine (Chelidonium majus).

Fast fact: Relishing cool soil with plenty of leaf litter, celandine poppies associate well with other native woodland plants that bloom at the same time, such as lady’s slipper orchids (Cypripedium spp.), Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) and Trillium spp.

Want more information on native plants?

Evergreen, a national charity that makes cities more liveable, has a comprehensive Native Plant Database.

Shot on location at Wildflower Farm.


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