Smallwort, Pilewort. Ranunculus Ficaria:
of the earliest spring flowers. Common in hedgerows and moist corners
of fields. Will grow as high as 2400 feet (Wales) The blossoms close
before rain and even in fine weather do not open before nine
and by five have closed for the night.
collected in March and April, while in flower, and dried.
Actions and uses:
Astringent: this herb is an old remedy for piles; indeed it could be
considered a specific.
infusion of 1 oz. in a pint of boiling water taken in wineglassful
doses, and will in most cases be sufficient to effect a cure.
Externally; an ointment made from the bruised
fresh lard applied locally, night and morning, or in the form of
poultices, fomentations, or suppositories.
Culpepper tells us,
"... it is certain by good experience that the decoction of the
leaves and roots doth wonderfully help piles and hæmorroids;
also kernels by the ears and throat called the 'Kings Evil', or any
other hard wens or tumours...” And then, rather fancifully
"... the very herb borne about one's body next the skin helps in
such diseases, though it never touch the place
The roots form tubers each of which, like potatoes, can form a new
plant. If carefully dug from the ground in late summer or autumn
these tubers can be seen, hanging in a bunch of a dozen or more
together, looking like figs; hence the plant's specific name
As the flowers are too early to attract
many insects for pollination those plants that are not fertilised
develop 'bulbils', about the size of a wheat grain, in the angle
between the upper leaves and the stem. In early summer, as the
foliage withers, these 'bulbils' drop to the ground; each is capable
of producing a new plant.