Spring - Lesser Celandine

Common names: Lesser Celandine, fig buttercup, pilewort, small celandine, lesser crowfoot, buttercup, dusky maiden

Botanical Name: Ficara verna

Native Range: Europe, Northern Africa, and Western Asia. This is a lovely and highly invasive member of the buttercup  family, and currently is found in more than 25 states, mostly in  the northeastern US. It is one of the very first plants to bloom in spring, and its bright, showy yellow flowers are extremely attractive. It was brought to this continent as a garden plant.

Height and width: 3 to 5 inches

Flowers: bright yellow, up to 1 inch or more in diameter, with 7 or more petals

Time of bloom: March and April

Leaves: Dark green, heart shaped

Sun: This plant can grow in sun or shade, and is frequently found in woodlands, blooming before the leaves mature on the trees.

Reproduction: seeds, bulblets at the base of the plant, and tuberous roots. Considered a “spring ephemeral”, that is, it completes its bloom and then disappears until the next spring.

Lesser celandine can produce seeds, but spreads primarily by bulblets at the base of the leaves and by developing underground rhizomes which store nourishment for the plant’s long period of dormancy.  Once the blooms fade in spring, the plant disappears, leaving the area in which it was growing bare and subject to erosion. This plant should not be confused with marsh marigold (Calthra palustris), which has 5 petals rather than the 7 to 12 found in lesser celandine. Other differences include the lack of tuberous roots and bulblets in the native marigold.

Picture of Lesser Celandine invasive species plant (jpg)

Why is this plant on “Do Not Plant Lists?

Lesser Celandine is considered highly invasive, and in many states, nurseries are prohibited selling the plant. Its rapid growth early in the spring allows it to out-compete many native ephemerals. This has the effect overtime of allowing this invasive to become the predominant in the landscape. 

Control methods: 
Mechanical: Hand-dig individual plants, being careful to remove all bulblets and tubers. Hand-digging is difficult in larger populations due to the high degree of soil disturbance and abundance of small tubers. Monitor site in subsequent years for residual plants. 
Chemical: Herbicide treatments must be carried out early in the spring, prior to the emergence of native spring ephemerals and amphibians. Systemic herbicides such as glyphosate (Roundup) are effective. Note: This method is not approved for wetlands in NJ.


  1. Wisconsin Department of National Resources - Lesser celandine 
  2. New York Invasive Species Information 
  3. Raritan Headwaters Invasive Plant Fact Sheet (PDF)