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Lesser celandine

(Ranunculus ficaria)

Photo of lesser celandine
Photo credit: Robert Bierman

Herbaceous groundcover with kidney to heart-shaped leaves and showy, daisy-like yellow flowers. Rapidly reproduces vegetatively by abundant tubers and above-ground bulblets.


Other names for this plant include:
  • Common names: fig buttercup, pilewort, small celandine, lesser crowfoot, buttercup, dusky maiden
  • Scientific names: Ficaria verna, Ficaria ficaria, Ranunculus ficaria var. bulbifera, Ranunculus ficaria var. ficaria, Ranunculus ficaria ssp. chrysocephalus
Ecological threat:
  • Thrives in partial sun and moist soils, but also tolerant of drier, sunny sites.
  • Invades forests, wetlands and riparian areas, as well as upland areas and disturbed areas such as lawns.
  • Infestations of this plant eliminate spring ephemeral communities in woodlands, which includes sensitive native plants.
  • Noted as invasive in neighboring states with similar habitats. Extremely invasive in northern Ohio. In one Cleveland park, approximately 400 acres are dominated by this plant.
  • Easily reproduces and spreads into new areas through bulbils and tubers, or seed.
  • Plants are poisonous to livestock and humans.
 Overview map of prohibited classification in WI
Prohibited (red) counties

Classification in Wisconsin: Prohibited

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for lesser celandine was based upon this literature review [PDF] developed by the department.


Leaves & stems: Leaves are dark-green, shiny, and kidney to heart-shaped on short stalks. Leaves emerge from a basal rosette in early spring before the canopy trees leaf out.

Flowers: Flowers are bright butter-yellow, glossy, and usually have 8 petals (although sometimes up to 12), arranged around a central disk. Numerous 1" flowers are borne singly on stalks. Flowers open in early spring, March to April.

Fruits & seeds: This species does produce viable seed, up to 70 seeds per plant. After flowering, aerial vegetation dies back and entire plants can be dead by June.

Roots: Above-ground whitish bulblets are produced on the stem axils, usually forming after flowering. Below-ground rhizomes are thick, finger-like tubers. These storage organs keep the plant alive through summer-fall when above-ground portions of the plant have senesced.

Similar species: Lesser celandine resembles marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) but is much smaller. Marsh marigold is a native wetland plant found throughout the eastern United States. Marsh marigold contains 5-9 yellow "petals" (actually sepals), while lesser celandine often contains 8 petals. Marsh marigold also does not produce tubers or bulblets.

Lesser celandine varieties include 'Pencarn' and 'Buttered Popcorn.' Notable traits of these varieties are leaves variegated with silver markings and double flower heads. These varieties are considered equally as invasive.

This species is unrelated to greater celandine (Chelidonium majus).


  • 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.
  • 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 are effective. Apply a 1.5% rate of a 39%-41% glyphosate isopropylamine salt (e.g., Rodeo®) for wetland areas, mixed with water and a non-ionic surfactant to foliage.


View lesser celandine pictures in our photo gallery!