Weed of the Week - Lesser Celandine

Author: 
Chuck Schuster

Welcome back to our world of weeds. The undesired plants are already getting a good foothold for the new growing season.

Lesser Celandine, Ranunculus ficaria L., also known as Fig Buttercup and pilewort, is a perennial flowering herbaceous plant that is in the process of flowering currently in many protected areas near some large groupings of buildings. This plant, native to Europe, was brought into the United States as an ornamental plant. This spring ephemeral arises early in the season, often near forest fringe areas, and creates a dense carpet thus preventing native ephemerals that include bloodroot, wind ginger and others from surviving. The dense growing pattern makes this plant an invasive weed that competes and eliminates native understory plant species. This plant may be misidentified as marsh marigold Caltha palustris, but it does not produce the tuber found on Lesser Celandine.

This plant will have a basal rosette of dark green and shiny stalked leaves heart to kidney shaped. The flowers will arise above the leaves on a delicate stalk, be yellow in color, and will occur with eight petals (rarely more). The center of the flower will be slightly darker in color. Most flowering occurs in this region from March through May. The plant will present with pale cream colored bulblets that occur along the stem axils that will become noticeable with close observation after the flowering period is complete. These bulblets make mechanical removal difficult. Lesser Celandine spreads primarily by vegetative means through abundant tubers and bulblets.

Control of Lesser Celandine is difficult. Manual methods can achieve success with small patches, but will take careful removal of all bulblets and removal from the site to either a landfill or other means of destruction. Chemical control can be achieved using glyphosate (Rodeo is labeled for wetland areas) products early in the season, Mid February to early April, as long as the temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit and no rain is anticipated within 12 hours. Waiting beyond this period of time may cause damage to many native wildflowers that share some sites. In this area it is recommended to wait until half the plants are in bloom to start control. In turf/lawn settings products containing at least two of these herbicides have been found effective. The herbicides to look for are MCPA, triclopyr, dicamba, that will remove many broadleaf weeds. Glyphosate products are non-selective and will destroy desired species. This process will take seven to fourteen days. No selective post emergent is currently labeled for this plant.

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