Cursed With … Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria
Last spring I was so excited to find this lovely plant blooming at the water’s edge of our wetland area. In my exuberance, I was convinced that we had a variety of Marsh-marigolds and was thrilled by the lucky find. Not so. We were cursed! The lovely yellow flowers turned out to be Lesser Celandine.
So… I’m not so exuberant this year to see it back.
Turns out, this is another invasive species that needs to be eliminated from our Nature Habitat project here at Beaver Willows.
As soon as the first winter freeze was over and the ground thawed, like magic, this invasive invader popped out of the ground in the exact spot it grew last year.
Lesser Celandine won’t trick us into letting it stay around to bloom this year. It’s about to be yanked and tossed into the trash. Yes, the trash. This one is not a candidate for the compost box out of fear the tubers, would survive only to pop up somewhere else on the property.
The plant is native throughout Europe and west Asia. It was introduced to North America as an ornamental. But, as soon as it jumped the garden wall, Lesser Celandine has been deemed “invasive.” This low-growing, perennial, fleshy dark green, heart-shape-leaved plant has very nasty habits out in the wild. Native spring ephemeral wildflowers often don’t stand a chance because the Ranunculus ficaria leaves appear in late winter and, once the plant multiplies in great numbers, they form dense mats which prevent the growth of most other plants. In fact, the Environmental Services folks in Portland, Oregon nick-named this plant “Death-in-dirt.”
It blooms from March until May with bright yellow flowers that are symmetrical with a slightly darker center and grow on separate stalks above the leaves. The number of petals on each flower ranges from six to 26. Double-bloom varieties have up to 60 petals. Lesser celandine is noted for having three green sepals, the supporting leaves attached to the base of the flower; look-alikes don’t have sepals.
Lesser celandine prefers damp, shady locations and is spread by seed, but also more importantly, through small bulblets which are easily distributed in disturbed areas. Lesser celandine seeds and bulblets are moved by soil movement which makes its removal from our Nature Habitat Park imperative. It is growing on the bank of a flowing stream. Which could give floating seeds and bulblets a tremendous advantage…
Better go dig… right now!
From the surface, who would guess what evil was lurking below! Once the bulblets are exposed, it’s easy to understand how the Lesser Celandine can be so invasive.
Now… I’m exuberant! The plant and all the bulblets are in the trash.