Buttercup Invasive- Lesser Celandine Runs Rampant

Lesser Celandine

Have you seen a little yellow flower that you think is very cute blooming on your property??? It forms a ground covering mat of glossy green heart shaped leaves punctuated by buttercup like flowers. You might have looked at it and thought it was the first sign of spring!

If your answer is yes, get ready to do battle!! This is a really nasty invasive that hales from Europe and and is taking over North America. It is Ranunculus ficaria, Lesser Celandine, or more commonly just a cute little buttercup. It was introduced as an ornamental plant in the trade and took off at lightning speed. A spring ephemeral, the plant appears very early in the spring, overtaking other spring ephemerals and displacing them. An ephemeral simply means it appears for a short period of time, taking advantage of the available light before the trees leaf out, and then disappears.

Blood Root is a native ephemeral that is being crowded out by Lesser Celandine
Ranunculus ficaria.
Ranunculus ficaria. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lesser Celandine is in the Buttercup family and is rampantly spreading everywhere and can grow in all kinds of conditions.  I see it at many job sites and the first order of business is to spray it repeatedly with a herbicide before it takes over the entire property. It is possible but very difficult to dig up, but most of the time, digging just spreads it around because of the finger like tubers underground. If you want to spray an organic herbicide, there are several available at the hardware store.

Image from NRCS

Completing it’s life cycle in the winter and spring, it disappears when hot weather rolls around, but it is just getting ready to come out in every greater numbers the following spring with multiplying tubers.  It is relentless and very aggressive! This Ranunculus is smothering out all the more desirable native plants which are so necessary for the local pollinators. With no natural predators to keep it in check, it spreads…. and spreads…. and spreads. And the diversity of the ecosystem suffers.

Lesser Celandine forms a ground covering mat that chokes out native species

Spray with a herbicide early when the weather is at least 50 degrees. As spring advances, spraying is more unsuccessful and you are more likely to over spray other species.

14 Replies to “Buttercup Invasive- Lesser Celandine Runs Rampant”

  1. Claire, You should see it at Sherwood Gardens. We were just there and it is rampant. Guess they gave up on fighting it. Pretty bad this year.

  2. excellent writeup. Sorry to realize a friend has this all over her creek bank, which she is trying to restore with natives. Is there an organic herbicide you can name?

    1. Organic herbicides come in several brand names and I have used them all. So, just google it and see which your local store carries. Be aware though, that they aren’t as effective as roundup and you would have to spray repeatedly

  3. If you intend to rid yourself of this devil, plan on being absolutely persistent, if not obsessive. With herbicide, you might kill 80% the first year, but some tubers will recover, and some seeds will persist in the soil. I’ve been trying to restore about two wooded hillside acres that were solid LC about 8 years ago. I still spend way too much time spot spraying and carefully hand digging, but the recovery of native ephemerals is very rewarding and relatively quick (3 or 5 years), especially if you can collect seeds or divide ground covers and perennials. And I have been obsessive about it…

    LC moves relentlessly downhill, so start your removal at the top of slopes, and work your way down as time and money permits each year. Also, only replant with annuals first year, because it will make it more difficult to do followup removal second year. Once you see minimal return of LC in a subsequent spring, go for it. Good luck staying sane…

  4. But your poisoning campaign will kill all the more desirable plants including the ephemerals as well as a multitude of soil organisms.

  5. I planted native celendine poppy and it is spreading, which I wanted in the understory area I planted it. This is not invasive, correct? They are very distinct plants that share one portion of their name? I thought I researched this before planting but now that it’s spreading, I want to verify before it’s too late.

    1. Correct, it is not invasive and is a native species. I think this one spreads very nicely and doesn’t get out or control

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