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Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas

Swearingen, J., K. Reshetiloff, B. Slattery, and S. Zwicker. 2002. Plant Invaders of
Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 82 pp.

Lesser Celandine
Jil Swearingen, NPS
Lesser Celandine
Ranunculus ficaria

Origin: Europe

Lesser celandine, also known as fig buttercup, was introduced to the United States as an ornamental plant and many colorful varieties are currently available commercially.

Distribution and Ecological Threat
Lesser celandine is currently found in 20 northeastern states and in Oregon, Washington and several Canadian provinces. It occurs most commonly on moist, forested floodplains areas. The greatest impact of lesser celandine is on native spring-flowering plants. Lesser celandine emerges in advance of most native spring species, giving it a great competitive advantage. Once established, it spreads rapidly across the forest floor to form a blanket of leaves which native species are unable to penetrate.

Description and Biology

  • Plant: perennial herbaceous plant in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).
  • Leaves: shiny, dark green, kidney-shaped, stalked leaves may appear as early as January.
  • Flowers, fruits and seeds: glossy, butter-yellow flowers appear in March and April supported on delicate stalks above the leaves. Aboveground portions of lesser celandine die back by early June.
  • Spreads: primarily by bulblets and underground tubers. The tiny cream-colored bulblets are attached to leafstalks and are easily dislodged from the plant. A mass of small, gray, fingerlike tuberous roots underlies each plant. Bulblets and tubers are easily carried downstream during flood events and may be unearthed and scattered by the digging activities of some animals.
  • Look-alikes: native marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), several native buttercups.

Prevention and Control
Care should be taken to correctly identify lesser celandine before undertaking any control efforts to avoid removing native look-alike plants. For small infestations, clumps of lesser celandine can be pulled by hand or dug up using a shovel, removing entire plants and as many tubers as possible. Use of contact or systemic herbicides is also an option but should be done as early as possible to avoid impact to native plant species.

Native Alternatives

wild ginger (Asarum canadense)
Wild Ginger
Britt Slattery, USFWS

wild geranium (Geranium maculatum)
Wild Geranium
Britt Slattery, USFWS
green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianum)
Green and Gold
Britt Slattery, USFWS
foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia)
Foam Flower
Britt Slattery, USFWS

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USDA Forest ServiceUSDA APHIS PPQ The Bugwood Network University of Georgia is a joint project of
The Bugwood Network, USDA Forest Service & USDA APHIS PPQ.
The University of Georgia - Warnell School of Forest Resources and
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences - Dept. of Entomology
Last updated on Wednesday, November 05, 2003 at 01:26 PM
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