Adonis vernalis – Yellow Adonis 

Pheasant’s eye, or Adonis annua, is a familiar and widespread British native plant in Ranunculaceae.  It was among nine species and varieties named by Linnaeus in 1753 and 1762, in the two editions of his Species Plantarum.  Today four species are recognised and one is transferred to a different genus.  There are now about 20 species in Eurasia, with 10 native to Europe.  Adonis is split into two sections: one with the  annuals, and the other the perennial herbs.  According to Stearn, Adonis was accepted by the Greeks as the god of plants.  Adonis vernalis was named by Linnaeus in Species Plantarum 1: 547 (1753). 

Adonis vernalis is a perennial herb with a wide, but fragmented, distribution in south, east and central Europe, extending north to Sweden, east into European Russia and the Caucasus.  Its centre of diversity however, is Poland, Ukraine and Crimea.  It grows on the grassy steppe as well as forest edges and in pine forest and generally on impoverished soil.  So it is ideally planted in gritty, rock garden soils.  It flourishes best in he sun.  Our specimen dates from 2005 and has grown into a splendid plant.  The leaves are twice pinnate, and the bright yellow flowers are 5-8 cm in diameter, and terminal on stems 20-40 cm long.

Adonis vernalis and Adonis amurensis are two of the showiest species and it is surprising they have not been given an Award of Merit.  Adonis vernalis is illustrated in Polunin’s Flowers of Europe, and there is a line drawing in the RHS Dictionary of Gardening.

While Adonis vernalis is poisonous it is, like foxglove, used medicinally for heart problems.  There are also claims for its wider medical use.


CultivationAdonis vernalis grows best in a moist but well drained, alkaline soil. 

Propagation:  Is by seed, sown fresh; or by careful division before growth starts.

PositionAdonis vernalis is growing in the centre of the Rock Garden beside the viewpoint to the ponds.  GRID E4.


Huxley, Anthony et al.  1992. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening.  Macmillan.

Jarvis, Charlie  2007.  Order out of Chaos.  Linnean Society & Natural History Museum.

Mabberley, D.J. 2008.   Mabberley’s Plant-Book.  3rd edition.  Cambridge.

Polunin. Oleg.  1997. Flowers of Europe.  Oxford.

Stearn, William T.  1993.  Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners.  Cassell.

Walter, S.M. et al.  1989.  European Garden Flora 111.  Cambridge.