I write this on the day of the announcement of the referendum on spring hunting in Malta.  It is a historic poll and I sincerely hope that the people of Malta have made their vote count.

And, of course, at home our politicians want your vote this spring.

But so do birds, wild flowers and a red squirrel called Bob.

I am looking forward to reading the manifestos from the political parties when they emerge over the next few days.  My attention will be on what they say about nature.

The growing number of politicians who have backed Bob (to date, c700 prospective parliamentary candidates) should give confidence to the manifesto writers that plans to restore nature will go down well with the electorate - so I hope they are ambitious.

But today, I want to wade into another debate that has been kicked off by my former employers, Plantlife.  They have invited the country to vote for their favourite wild flower.  To celebrate their 25th anniversary, 25 species (see montage image from Plantlife below) are being put to a public vote.

There are some rather predictable front runners such as the bluebell, primrose and common poppy, but I want to make the case for lesser celandine, currently languishing 17th in the table.

My image of a lesser celandine taken at the Wildlife Trust reserve Cherry Hinton Chalk Pits, Cambridge

This distinctive member of the buttercup family is in flower now and it gets my vote because it brings hope and joy.  Like the chiffchaff from the bird world or the brimstone butterfly, it is a harbinger of spring.  Unlike its showy competitor, the snowdrop, which offers false hope that the winter is over, the lesser celandine is a flower you can trust:  spring is here and life will get better.

Yet it also offers a painful reminder that spring is fleeting, that the glorious months of April and especially May move at pace and then, outrageously end.  So, for me the lesser celandine appeals to my 'hurry-up' instinct.  Hurry up and get outside, look for wildlife, explore beautiful places and re-engage your botanical brain.  Sunshine helps but it is currently brightening my visits to local parks, walks along the river or nature reserves.

Unlike the common poppy and snowdrop, the lesser celandine is also native to these islands and would be a wonderful national symbol of what this great nation of ours offers: optimism, beauty and resilience.

And, if you are not convinced, then read the following by William Wordsworth for whom lesser celandine was allegedly his favourite flower...

"Soon as gentle breezes bring

News of winter's vanishing,

And the children build their bowers,

Sticking 'kerchief-plots of mould

All about with full-blown flowers,

Thick as sheep in shepherd's fold!

With he proudest Thou are there,

Mantling in the tiny square."

So, this spring, vote for lesser celandine as the nation’s favourite wild flower.  But, perhaps more importantly, go and marvel at the beauty and diversity of our native wild flowers.  Unlike some politicians, they never disappoint.

  • I think each month I have a favourite. March is Celandine, April is Wood Anemone or should that be Primrose? May = Bluebells (some say we Brits have 75% of the world's population). June is Rose.. They are all beautiful - vote for them all.

  • Lesser celandine is an invasive weed in my garden. The fluorescent yellow clashes horribly with a dark purple Vinca minor so I would appreciate it a lot more if it stayed in the wild!