Less Is More With Lesser Celandine

By Gretchen Spencer, Fairfax Master Gardener
What is shiny green and bright yellow and spreads ALL over? Not daffodils or dandelions or buttercups, but lesser celandine. Watch out for this weed!

lesser celandine

Lesser celandine

Also known as fig buttercup and pilewort, lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficari L.) has lovely yellow flowers and attractive foliage, but it is a thug in the landscape. Adjectives such as aggressive, invasive, noxious and undesired would certainly apply.

I had seen this weed in wooded areas near a parkland stream that borders our neighborhood, but I didn’t pay much attention to it until this year, when I noticed that it had formed extensive, dense mats in several areas. My curiosity led me to research what I originally had thought was a wildflower.

Identification
Lesser celandine is easy to spot. Its glossy, green leaves are heart or kidney shaped, with toothed margins. Its bright, buttery-yellow flowers have eight to 12 narrow, oval petals with darker-yellow centers. The plant has a basal rosette of leaves and a single stem that supports the flower. Pulling up the plant reveals many small tubers produced by the roots. Because of its tubers and seeds, lesser celandine is easily spread by animals or when disturbed in any way. In our neighborhood, I suspect water is the conduit; tubers and seeds spread as the stream sweeps