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 hails 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.
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.
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 ever 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.
Sometimes in transplanting a plant from another property, you might import it unwittingly. I did this and as soon as I spotted it at the base of the desirable plant, I dug it up right away. Roundup would have killed the other plant, so I will keep an eye out to make sure I got it all. Persistence is key with this plant!
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.