Lesser celandine
Image by Les Mehrhoff, DiscoverLife.org

A look at the herbaceous mats of Lesser celandine in an understory

Lesser Celandine

Lesser Celandine, a.k.a. fig buttercup, is a short-lived spring perennial that prefers moist, sandy soil and thrives in wetland sites along streams and river banks as well as forested flood plains. This species is native to Europe, Asia and Northern Africa and was probably introduced to the U.S. as an ornamental plant. The earliest finding of Lesser Celandine within the United States dates back to 1867 in Pennsylvania. Since then, it has been found in the Northeast, Pacific Northwest and some states west of Missouri.

Lesser Celandine is a low-growing plant that has long-stalked leaves arranged in a basal rosette and tends to create dense mats as it matures. The leaves are kidney-shaped and have a smooth texture with wavy edges. Lesser Celandine produces yellow flowers that are 2 to 6 cm wide with 4 to 12 in. long peduncles. There are five sub-species of lesser celandine which are distinguished mainly by their reproductive characteristics.

Shoots of Lesser Celandine generally emerge during late-March to mid-April due to increased light availability of early spring temperatures. They produce seeds in late spring and by summer, the vegetation dies back and the plant enters dormancy. Some varieties of this species do not produce viable seed and are primarily reproduced via the aerial bulbs and tuberous root system.

Lesser Celandine’s early emergence threatens native wildflowers and other native plants such as bloodroot and spring beauties as they can overpower a forest understory before these natives even have a chance to emerge. These native wildflower species are important for bees and other insects as a source of nectar in the early spring that they depend on. Also, the ground left behind by Lesser Celandine can become a hotbed for other weed species due to its disturbance of the native plant ecosystem.

Small infestations of Lesser Celandine can be maintained through manual remove with special attention to remove the tubers from deep within the soil. Repeated spring mowing may also reduce the growth habit of lesser celandine but it may risk dispersal of the aerial bulbis. Glyphosate herbicides can be effective and may be a good alternative to reduced soil disturbance from manual pulling.


Lesser Celandine Species Profile, This webpage created by the New York Invasive Species Information website details science-based information about this invasive species and includes references for the species origins, biology, identifying characteristics, impacts and control methods as well as an updated distribution map.

Fig Buttercup Fact Sheet [PDF], This document from the Plant Conservation Alliance’s Alien Plant Working Group details the ecological threat, biology and spread and management options for this Invasive Species.

Fig Buttercup Webpage, This webpage from the National Invasive Species Information Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides a species profile that highlights an early detection and distribution mapping system as well as selected resourced for various uses.

Greater and Lesser Celandine Fact Sheet [PDF], This document from the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County details information about Greater and Lesser Celandine and their descriptions, reproduction habits and distribution as well as other reference material. 

Last updated March 22, 2022