Noxious Weed Education

Featured Invasive Plant - Lesser Celandine

The Weed Program's currently featured invasive plant is Lesser Celandine (PDF) (Ficaria verna). It is a Class B Noxious Weed on the Whatcom County Noxious Weed List and now listed as a Washington State Prohibited Plant. Surveys in Whatcom County in 2014 mapped more than 200 locations of this plant. Most of these locations were found growing in lawns and home landscaping.

About the Plant

  • Lesser celandine, also called fig buttercup, is a native of Europe and North Africa.
  • Initially introduced as a garden ornamental but escaped cultivation. 
  • 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, out-competing 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. Plants or soil must never go into the backyard compost. The bulblets can also be easily spread by mud stuck to boots and tools, so be sure to clean these off before you leave a celandine site. On creek banks the 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 (Ranunculus sp.). 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 about 8 petals, are produced in March or April. The plants produce light colored bulbs along the above ground portions of the stem. 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 have been sold in the past as garden ornamentals, but this plant was banned from sale in 2016 in Washington State. While these plants may offer an enticing first burst of spring color, please do not bring them home with you or share them with others. They are likely to go beyond any boundaries on your property and become an invasive problem which is very tough to reverse.

Though Lesser Celandine is related to buttercups, the control methods are different for Lesser CelandineInformation 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 March. If you find it growing on your property or elsewhere, please contact the Weed Board at 360-778-6234.

Weed Management Recommendations

More Weed Management Recommendations for additional species can be found on our Weed Fact Sheets.