Sunday, February 26, 2017

Winter Aconite and Fig Buttercup--Related Flowers, Contrasting Behaviors

Both of these non-native wildflowers are in the family Ranunculaceae. Both bloom early and have pretty yellow flowers. While one appears to be modest and highly local in its spread, the other spreads so quickly across yards and into neighbors' yards and floodplains as to pose a threat to gardens and natural areas alike.


Here's winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) opening up a week ago in my garden, a legacy from the previous owner. Its modest spread is easily contained. I've never seen it spreading into nature preserves. Note the leaf shape, which distinguishes it from the related wildflower below.

Here, also a week ago, is lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), emerging where it now coats the streambanks along a bikepath near Guyot Avenue. It's more commonly called fig buttercup these days. People think it's pretty, transplant it to their gardens, then begin having regrets as it spreads uncontrollably to dominate their gardens and yards. If you are one of the distraught gardeners wishing you didn't have this flower, and not wanting to impose its spread on the rest of the neighborhood, late winter is the time to deal with it. Though I'm no fan of herbicide, that tends to be the only workable option in the majority of cases. For details, consult this link, or others with similar protocols.

Other posts on this subject can be found on this website by typing "celandine" into the search box. A post called "Will the real lesser celandine please stand up--a confusion of yellows" helps with identification.

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