Featured Invasive Plant - Lesser Celandine
The Weed Program's currently featured invasive plant is Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna). It has recently been added to the Whatcom County Noxious Weed List as a Class "B" Noxious Weed. Surveys in Whatcom County in 2014 have mapped nearly 200 locations of this plant. Most of these locations were found growing in lawns and home landscaping.
Lesser celandine, also called fig buttercup, is a native of Europe and North Africa. It was initially introduced as a garden ornamental, but it has escaped cultivation and has created environmental problems across North America. It is now present in 22 states and 4 Canadian provinces and often recognized as invasive or noxious. Lesser celandine invades moist woodlands, fields, and creek banks, outcompeting native plants. It also has invaded several lawns and gardens in the Bellingham area. It grows densely very early in the spring, preventing other plants from sprouting. Although the foliage dies back by June, a dense network of underground roots and tubers remain, continuing to inhibit the growth of other plants. Lesser celandine reproduces by seed, bulblets and underground tubers. These bulblets and tubers can easily be spread when soil is disturbed or moved, so any control using digging by hand must be done very carefully and plants or soil must never go into the backyard compost. On creek banks plants are spread whenever floodwaters rise.When celandine is present in lawn areas, it may be spread by mowing equipment.
Lesser celandine is related to buttercups. The plant has shiny, dark green leaves that are heart-shaped and up to 1.5 inches long. The plants are low growing, less than 1 foot high, and sprout very early in the spring. Where they are well established, the plants form a green “carpet”. Bright yellow flowers, about an inch in diameter, usually with 8 petals, are produced in March or April. The plants produce light colored bulblets along the aboveground portions of the stem (pictured above). The root system is composed of small fibrous tubers. By June, the above ground portions of the plant dies back, leaving bare ground.
Many varieties of lesser celandine are still sold as garden ornamentals, with flower color ranging from white to orange, and foliage ranging from green to bronze. While these plants may offer an enticing first burst of spring color, please do not bring them home with you. They are likely to go beyond any boundaries on your property and become invasive.
Information on how to manage Lesser Celandine can be found here. Please be on the lookout for this plant, as it will be in bloom starting in early March. If you find it growing on your property or elsewhere, please contact the Weed Board at 360-715-7470.
Weed Management Recommendations for:
More Weed Management Recommendations for additional species can be found on our Weed Fact Sheets page.