Sunday, April 24, 2011


When I started gardening around my home about 40 years ago, I spotted lovely early spring, delightfully yellow blossoms in nearby woods. I was told that they were probably marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris), a native in wetlands habitats of eastern United States. Being a novice and not having the wonderful availability of Google Search back then, I happily transplanted a small clump into my new woodland garden.

It’s now a love-hate relationship. I still love seeing these beauties bloom, but hate the job of removing them knowing that some of their abundant fingerlike tubers (up to two inches long!), produced by the roots, will remain behind to create new plants next year.

These lesser celandine, in the Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), are also called Fig Buttercup and Pilewort. They are perennial, herbaceous flowering plants whose native range is Eurasia (Europe, Northern Africa, Western Asia, Caucasus, and Siberia). Originally introduced into the US as an ornamental plant, it’s still available here commercially (DO NOT BUY IT!). These invasive plants displace our native plant species that provide important nectar and pollen for native pollinators, and fruits and seeds for other native insects and wildlife species. They rapidly establish and overtake large areas of woodlands.
The plant used to be known as Pilewort, since it was used to treat hemorrhoids. The early leaves, which are high in vitamin C, were used to prevent scurvy.  In Russia, the dried leaves are brewed and used in baths to cure dermatitis.

The best time to try to pull or dig them out is after a rain. Grab all of the stems of the plant and gently, but firmly ease them out of the soil. Every time I have a seemingly successful “pull,” I think to myself that the lesser celandine is probably laughing (if indeed it could laugh!) that I’ve missed something and will see it next year!

1 comment:

  1. How interesting! I think I've seen that before and now I'll be looking for it! We love to identify plants...and birds! ♥


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