Pretty But Diabolical; Yellow-Flowered Green Plants Choke the Park

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - 7:26pm

Lesser Celandine - pretty diabolical nusiance

Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna, also known as Fig Buttercup) is a very pretty, but non-native invasive plant, originally from Eurasia and northern Africa, that has taken over the Little Falls Spring Valley Park, completely carpeting the valley floor in early spring with a thick green layer dotted with little yellow flowers. Ours is one of the most infested in Montgomary County. You can see it now because it has already started to come up in the midst of this cold snap. Along with a number of other invasives in our park, lesser celandine is a direct and potent threat to our native plants, especially spring ephemerals, and to our native insects, birds and amphibians, who depend on the native plants. None of them eat celandine.

How do we want Little Falls Park to look in 10 years?  

Do we want it covered with a few invasive plants and vines, or do we want the diversity of hundreds of native plants and seedlings, which attract birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects? Because of the Lesser Celandine, we have lost most of the Virginia Bluebells, Wild Ginger, Bloodroot, Trout Lily, Squirrel Corn, Trillium and Spring Beauty that used to cover the park in abundance. People who moved to this area many years ago often speak of the masses of Virginia Bluebells in the park as one of the main attractions of this area.  If we want to restore the ecological health and the beauty of Little Falls Park, then we must eliminate Lesser Celandine.
 Lesser Celandine blanketing forest floorForest floor without lesser celandine - see all the spring beauties

Controlling Lesser Celandine

Lesser Celandine is the first plant you will see appearing in the spring; it spreads quickly, crowds out ephemerals, ferns, and other natives, leeches the soil, and dies back before summer, leaving areas barren looking.  Its multiple bulblets reside up to 6 inches below ground, making manual removal ineffective and destructive to all other plants in the affected area.  If you’ve tried to remove it from your yard, you know that it even displaces grass. No known animals eat it, and no biocontrols are known for it. Chemical control is the only known effective method against Lesser Celandine. There is a very short window in the late winter when it can be controlled, before any native plants have broken ground, and before the Lesser Celandine has flowered.

What Can We Do?

Some other local parks have taken steps to control Lesser Celandine effectively. Rock Creek has combated their celandine problem with spraying and now boast dozens varieties of spring wildflowers including trilliums and hundreds of blue bells in areas that were sprayed.   Lesser Celandine Root BulbletsSligo Creek also had a celandine problem and been slowly eradicating it in places.  Click HERE for in-depth information that Friends of Sligo Creek (FOSC) compiled on the plant, the problem and the solution.  The National Park Service also describes the issues with this plant and the most viable solution (CLICK HERE.) 

Help Remove Nuisance Plants

Little Falls is actively taking a stand against invasives to support biodiversity in our parks. You can support this effort by removing any Lesser Celandine that crops up in your yards or attend WEED PULLS to restore the native plants to our park. You can also DONATE to help provide funds for native plants for Little Falls Park.  

To learn about what other plants are invading the park, click HERE.