Adonis Vernalis – Yellow pheasant’s Eye

Adonis Vernalis - Yellow pheasant's Eye





It is a Perennial herbaceous plant reaching up to 30 cm in height. The stem is branching, and the leaves many-cleft and sessile. The flowers are large, yellow, and attractive, with 10 or 12 oblong, spreading petals, slightly toothed at the apex. The fruit consists of numerous 1-sided acheniae.
It can be found in eastern South Europe and into Russia. Naturalized in north-eastern United States. Found on sunny grassy hills on dry calcareous soils. A rare plant in most of its range, it has legal protection from gathering in most countries. (1)

Known Hazards:

A toxic principle is present in very small quantities in the plant. It is poorly absorbed so poisoning is unlikely.

Cultivation details:

Grows well in any ordinary garden soil that is not too heavy. Prefers a moist well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade. Easily grown in a very well-drained rather dry soil in sun or part shade. Plants flower better when growing in a sunny position. This plant is adored by slugs and is therefore very difficult to grow in the open garden where slugs are common. A very ornamental plant, it is rather rare in the wild so only cultivated plants should be harvested. A greedy plant inhibiting the growth of nearby plants, especially legumes. (2)


Seed – best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe or else it can be slow and erratic to germinate. Sow the seed in partial shade in rich soil in September or March. Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the cold frame for their first season. Plant out when dormant in the autumn. Division in early spring or in autumn. The divisions can be difficult to establish, so it is probably best to pot them up and keep them in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are growing away well.



The chemical constituents of the plant may include various glycosides such as adonidosid, adonivernosid, cymarin, adonitoxin, adonin, choline, picradonidin and resin.



Pheasant’s eye has a long history of medicinal use and is still retained in the Pharmacopoeias of several European countries.
It is included in many proprietary medicines, especially since its effects are not cumulative. The plants are harvested every third year as they come into flower, they are dried for use in tinctures and liquid extracts. The herb does not store well so stocks should be replaced every year.
Use with great caution. The plant contains poisonous chemicals and wrong dosage for medicinal use may be harmful.

  • The plant contains cardiac glycosides similar to those found in the foxglove (Digitalis purpurea). These substances improve the heart’s efficiency, increasing its output at the same time as slowing its rate.
  • It also has a sedative action and so is generally prescribed for patients whose hearts are beating too fast or irregularly.
  • The herb is cardiotonic, diuretic, sedative and vasoconstrictor. It has sometimes been used internally as a cardiotonic with success where the better known foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) has failed – especially where there is also kidney disease.
  • The herb is also used in the treatment of low blood pressure and its strong diuretic action can be used to counter water retention. (2) (3)


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