Ranunculus ficaria

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Ranunculus ficaria

Lesser Celandine
Binomial:Ranunculus ficaria
Type:Perennial (spring ephemeral)
Conditions:Sun to dense shade, prefers damp and rich soils
Seed Dispersal:Via foot traffic or water
Germination Time: Early spring
Vegetative Spread:Tubers or bulbils

Lesser celandine, (Ranunculus ficaria, syns. Ficaria grandiflora, Ficaria verna), is a low-growing perennial native to Eurasia, but introduced into other parts of the world where it has escaped from cultivation.

Description[edit | edit source]

Lesser Celandine is a low-growing, hairless perennial plant, with fleshy dark green, heart-shaped leaves. It is a spring ephemeral, meaning that the foliage dies down after seeds are set in early summer.

The flowers are yellow, turning white as they age. Ranunculus ficaria exists in both diploid and tetraploid forms which are very similar in appearance. However, the tetraploid type prefer more shady locations and frequently develops bulbils at the base of the stalk. These two variants are sometimes referred to as distinct sub-species, R. ficaria ficaria and R. ficaria bulbifer respectively. The plant is found throughout Europe and west Asia and is now introduced in North America. It prefers bare, damp ground and in the UK it is often a persistent garden weed.

Ecology[edit | edit source]

In many parts of the northern United States and Canada, lesser celandine is an invasive weed.[1] It can be a difficult weed to eradicate both in gardens and in woodlands or meadows.

Uses[edit | edit source]

According to Gilbert White, a diarist writing around 1800 in the Hampshire village of Selborne, the plants came out on February 21st, but it is more commonly reported to flower from March until May, and is sometimes called the "spring messenger" as a consequence. It is sometimes planted (or at least tolerated) for the early flowers and the glossy foliage.

The plant used to be known as Pilewort, as it was used to treat hemorrhoids. Supposedly the knobbly tubers of the plant resemble piles, and according to the Doctrine of signatures this resemblance suggests that pilewort could be used to cure piles. The German vernacular Scharbockskraut (Scurvywort) derives from the use of the early leaves, which are high in vitamin C, against scurvy.

Control[edit | edit source]

  • Mowing: Mowing is ineffective
  • Cultivation: Cultivation often simply serves to spread the roots around, creating more plants.
  • Pulling: Pulling must be done with care, since the plant can grow back from small root fragments.
  • Flame: Flame is ineffective, as the plant stores energy in the roots.
  • Barriers: Barriers such as newspaper are effective.
  • Grazing: Toxic to most livestock
  • Disposal: Roots should only be composted in hot piles.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Swearingen, J., K. Reshetiloff, B. Slattery, and S. Zwicker (2002). "Lesser Celandine". Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas. National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C.. http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/pubs/midatlantic/rafi.htm.