Pretty Flower or Invasive Weed?

Fig buttercup is considered to be an invasive species.

The fig buttercup is taking over lawns all over the Philadelphia area.

As I drove through the area over the past two weeks, I noted it in Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy, Bala Cynwyd, Haverford, Media, Bryn Mawr, Gladwyne, Media, Conshohocken, Radnor, Merion, Wayne, Wynnewood just to name a few places. In some places, it’s one small plant and in others, there is nothing but a sea of yellow flowers.

Flower or Foe?

Two years ago, I would have looked at fig buttercup and thought how pretty those flowers looked, but no more. My husband and I bought a house with a side yard that has been invaded by the plant. The first year we were in the house, we thought the flowers looked nice, but we were moving in and didn’t have time to consider it more. Last year, we noticed that the fig buttercup had grown exponentially and was taking over our side yard.


A little research told us that fig buttercup, also known as lesser celandine, ficaire or the scientific name: ficaria verna was not a native species. The USDA’s National Invasive Species Information Center lists it as coming from Europe and as being introduced as an ornamental plant. The problem is that once you have it, it's very hard to get rid of it. The plant continues to multiply and pushes out other native species or plants you were trying to grow, which is why fig buttercup is listed as an invasive species.

Possible Solutions

So, last summer, my husband spent time, money and more time researching and fighting the weed. In the process, he killed almost all of the grass in our side yard (for which, I would like to apologize to my neighbors). But the summer ended, he replanted the grass and hoped the war was won. Now spring has sprung and so have the fig buttercups.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources notes that this weed is hard to control, but that it can be managed. For small infestations, the plants can be pulled, but it is important to make sure to get every blublet and tuber.

To control with chemicals, there is a short window, during the late winter-early spring, according to the DCNR.  

Apply a 1.5% rate of a 39 to 41% glyphosate isopropylamine salt (e.g., Rodeo for wetland areas) mixed with water and a non-ionic surfactant to foliage, avoiding application to anything but the celandine. Glyphosate is systemic; that is, the active ingredient is absorbed by the plant and translocated to the roots, eventually killing the entire plant. The full effect on the plant may take 1-2 weeks.  -DCNR

Check your weed killers for glyphosate in the ingredient list.

That’s what my husband did last year. He used weed killer with glyphosate, but still, they are back. The Plant Conservation Alliance says that, “Retreatment the following year will likely be needed.”

Do you have solutions for getting rid of this plant that have worked for you? Please share them in the comments area below.

Local Online Mentions of Fig Buttercup/Lesser Celandine:

Kate Galer April 01, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Instead of replanting grass, plant a perennial garden. Sturdy perennials will overtake weeds (coneflower, black-eyed susans, ornamental grasses) and suck up more storm water and use NO chemicals, look beautiful and be better for habitat and save you time. Why is everyone so determined to have some perfect lawn?
Janet April 02, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Amen, Kate. I can think of better things to do than fight my lawn. To each his/her own, I guess...
Lucy Bennett April 02, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Kate, I think you make a great point, but not one that works for everyone, unfortunately. Wild native plants are a great alternative if you have the extra land for that and I would happily give up lawn maintenance, but it would be hard for my son to kick a soccer ball through tall grasses and flowers. And taller grasses would increase my concern for deer ticks, as we have a very active deer population.
Megan Allen April 09, 2012 at 11:45 PM
I am battling this invasive plant all over my yard. Since it began creeping in from our neighbor's lawn, it has spread like wild fire all over our property. It is displacing thick patches of health periwinkle and pachysandra - I have tried to weed it out by hand, but there are thousands of tubers in the root system, its exhausting. We do not use chemicals such as Roundup, too damaging to the ecosystem and dangerous to organisms that we WANT in our dirt! I have tried an organic herbicide that contains clove - it works very well, (bought it at Home Depot) but does not seem to kill the root. The areas that we sprayed with this stuff last year came up again with smaller leaves, but nevertheless still came up. Luckily the foliage dies back in another few weeks, but where it takes over completely compromises the plants that you WANT to grow there...
John Dallas Bowers April 10, 2012 at 12:04 AM
Not enough choices in the poll. I love the yellow flowers but would prefer thick, healthy grass. Since that's not going to happen, I admire whatever's growing and simply call it "natural beauty."


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