Other Common Names: fig buttercup, pilewort, figroot buttercup, figwort, bulbous buttercup, small crowfoot
Weed class: B
Year Listed: 2014
Native to: Asia, Europe, North Africa
Is this Weed Toxic?:
This plant is also on the Washington State quarantine list. It is prohibited to transport, buy, sell, offer for sale, or distribute plants or plant parts of quarantined species into or within the state of Washington or to sell, offer for sale, or distribute seed packets of seed, flower seed blends, or wildflower mixes of quarantined species into or within the state of Washington. Please see WAC 16-752 for more information on the quarantine list. For questions about the quarantine list, contact the Washington State Department of Agriculture's Plant Services Program at (360) 902-1874 or email PlantServices@agr.wa.gov.
Why Is It a Noxious Weed?
Lesser celandine outcompetes and excludes native plants. It emerges before most other spring ephemeral plants which can give it a competitive advantage over our native understory plant communities. It is invasive, difficult to control and is spreading in Washington, but still has a fairly limited distribution.
How would I identify it?
It is a highly variable, hairless perennial with club-shaped, tuberous roots. Plants grow up to around 12 inches tall in a mounded rosette with basal and stem leaves. Solitary yellow flowers bloom at stem tips and form clusters of achenes.
Flowers are typically solitary on stem tips and are around 1 inch wide. Flowers have 3 (sometimes 4) pale green sepals and typically 7-13 yellow petals. Flowers typically yellow but color may vary depending on cultivars.
Plants have basal and stem leaves. Basal and lower stem leaves have longer petioles. Leaves are medium to dark green, often paler on their undersides. They are oblong, heart or triangular in shape with edges that can be smooth or have rounded teeth.
Stems grow up to 16 inches, growing up and outward. Pale aerial bulbils can form in leaf axils, and when they fall to the ground can sprout and grow into a new plant.
Fruit Seed Description
The fruit is a globular shaped cluster of achenes. Each achene contains a single seed.
May Be Confused With
The native yellow marsh marigold, Caltha palustris, also in the same family, may be confused with lesser celandine. Yellow marsh marigold does not have tuberous roots like lesser celandine. Also, marsh marigold does not produce bulbils. Lesser celandine flowers have distinct sepals and petals while marsh marigold only has petal-like sepals. See our written findings for more information.
Where does it grow?
Lesser celandine grows in a variety of habitats from moist, shaded woodlands, wetlands, streambanks and riverbanks to lawns, landscaped areas and roadsides. It is has been primarily found in Western Washington, with the largest number of sites in Whatcom County. Please click here to see a county level distribution map of lesser celandine in Washington.
How Does it Reproduce?
Depending on the subspecies, plants can reproduce by movement of its tuberous roots, by the bulbils on its stem and also by seed. Tubers and bulbils are easily dislodged and spread by mowing, moving soil and plant parts, as well as by flooding.
How Do I Control It?
General Control Strategy
This is a difficult plant to control since it can spread so successfully by vegetative means, and with the limited time the plant have above ground growth, timing control efforts can be a challenge. Soil and plant parts need to be properly disposed of as bulbils and tubers can be accidentally dispersed during control efforts. Persistent monitoring and follow up control work will be needed. Prevent its introduction by not planting lesser celandine or its cultivars. Instead, select non-invasive and native plants toplant in your landscape.
Small infestations can be controlled by hand digging, making sure to remove all plant parts. Any remaining roots or bulbils can sprout into new plants. Bag and dispose of plant parts, do not put in home compost. Mowing is not recommended for control as it may spread bulbils and seeds.
Sheet mulching with wood chips can effectively smoother the plants, but only if the layer isthick, around six inches deep.
There are currently no biological control agents available for lesser celandine.
The use of a systemic herbicide may provide control for large infestations as it kills the entire plant, including the roots, and minimizes soil disturbance. In order to have the greatest negative impact on lesser celandine and the least impact to desirable plants, herbicide should be applied in late winter-early to spring, before most native herbaceous plants have started to grow and before lesser celandine flowers. Glyphosate, a non-selective herbicide is recommended for controlling lesser celandine. Please refer to the written findings, the PNW Weed Management Handbook for information on herbicides or contact your county noxious weed coordinator.
For More Information
See our Written Findings for more information about lesser celandine (Ficaria verna)
Whatcom County NWCB Fact Sheet on lesser celandine
Control Options for lesser celandine from Whatcom County NWCB