Lesser Celandine: The Pretty Monster Killing Your Lawn & Garden

Lesser celandine is not the pretty yellow flower you think it is. It’s an invasive species of flowering weed that will cause significant damage to your lawn and garden.

If you’re dealing with this infestation, act quickly and urgently to prevent its spread. Here’s what you need to know about this devastating plant and the best ways to control it.

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What is Lesser Celandine?

Lesser celandine are small, yellow-flowered plants that most people from a distance assume are Dandelions. But they’re not.

This weed is native to Europe and Asia but has made its way to North America (it appeared in Philadelphia in the 1860s).

The plant has heart-shaped leaves and blooms in early spring. You can find it in the yards and gardens of many unfortunate Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky homeowners. Despite its pretty appearance, lesser celandine can quickly form dense mats that smother other plants and grass, leading to bare spots in your lawn. And it keeps coming back to do even more damage.

Here’s an oddly fun fact. Its scientific name is ficaria verna. It’s also called a fig buttercup. But it was commonly called pilewort long ago in Europe to heal “piles” (also known as hemorrhoids). Talk about an invasive species!

Dandelion vs lesser celandine
It’s no wonder that so many people mistake Dandelions (left) for Lesser Celandine plants (right). They’re nearly identical, especially from far away.

How Does Lesser Celandine Survive and Spread?

There’s a reason (several actually) that lesser celandine is so effective at sticking around and expanding its territory.

First, it produces numerous tubers. Every Spring, the tubers located underground store carbohydrates that are carried down from the leaves above ground. The following Spring, the cycle reverses, and the leaves are nourished by the tubers with these carbohydrates. These tubers can survive underground for 7 years.

Second, they are spread often due to oddly shaped bumps called bulbils. These bulbils attach to passing animals such as deer. They hitch a ride and get transported to new locations causing ever further infestation.

Third, it survives by playing possum. In late Spring or early Summer, lesser celandine seemingly disappears, giving homeowners a false sense of relief that the problem is gone. But it’s just laying low until it come back the following year as an even larger colony.

bulbils on lesser celandine
Notice the bulbils on this lesser celandine plant. Bulbils are also called bulbels, bulblets, or pups.

Why is Lesser Celandine a Problem?

Lesser celandine can be quite harmful to your garden and other plants. The plant grows rapidly and can form dense mats that inhibit the growth of other plants and grass.

Additionally, lesser celandine is allelopathic, which means it produces chemicals that can inhibit the growth of other plants, reducing the biodiversity of your garden.

It’s such a problem in fact that the Ohio Department of Agriculture makes it illegal to sell or distribute.

How Can You Control Lesser Celandine?

To effectively control lesser celandine, it’s important to act quickly and prevent further spread.

Manual removal is an effective method of control, using a small garden trowel or similar tool to remove the plant and its tubers from the soil. Be sure to remove as much of the tuber as possible, as even small fragments can grow into new plants.

If the infestation is large, herbicides may be necessary for control. Choose an herbicide that is safe for use in your garden and will not harm other plants or animals. Follow the instructions carefully and wear protective clothing to avoid contact with the chemicals.

lesser celandine illustrations
These illustrations of lesser celandine will help you identify them in your lawn and garden. Don’t be fooled by how pretty they are. They’re a menace.

Are There Any Benefits to This Plant?

While lesser celandine may not be good for your lawn and other plants, it can benefit pollinators. The plant’s bright yellow flowers provide an early source of nectar for bees and butterflies, which are often searching for food after a long winter.

But as you’ve read, there’s always a downside (and I’m not talking about hemorrhoids) to this herbal plant.

Because it’s not native to North America. There’s a good chance it won’t provide the same level of benefit to local pollinators as native plants. Worse, the plant’s invasive nature and allelopathic properties can have negative effects on the overall health and biodiversity of your turf and garden.

If you’re looking to attract pollinators to your garden, it’s best to focus on planting native species that are adapted to your local climate and can provide consistent sources of food and habitat for pollinators throughout the year.

Always consult your local landscaping professional to know which plants are best for your region.

Should I Use a Professional?

While manual removal and herbicides can be effective methods of controlling lesser celandine, you may be wondering whether you should hire a professional to handle the task. The answer depends on a few factors.

If you have a small infestation of lesser celandine, you may be able to handle the removal yourself. However, if the infestation is large or has spread throughout your lawn or garden, it may be best to hire a professional to ensure that the plant is properly and safely removed.

Additionally, if you are unsure about the safety and effectiveness of herbicides or don’t feel comfortable using them, a professional may be able to offer a safer and more effective solution.

When choosing a professional to handle your lesser celandine infestation, be sure to choose a licensed and insured company with experience in handling invasive plant species. Ask for references and read reviews to ensure that the company has a good reputation and can effectively address your infestation.

lawn care services cincinnati - fertilizer zach fert
If you’re going to use an herbicide yourself to eliminate lesser celandine, make sure you wear the proper safety gear (boots, gloves, and protective clothing).


If you see this plant in your yard or garden, take it seriously and act quickly.

While manual removal and herbicides can sometimes control lesser celandine, it’s best to hire a professional if the infestation is large or if you are unsure about the safety and effectiveness of control methods.

Choose a licensed and insured company with experience in handling invasive plant species to ensure that your infestation is properly and safely removed.

Need More Help?

Need a pro to quickly and safely get rid of those beautiful but malicious yellow weeds? Just contact American Landscapes here for a free, no-obligation estimate. Or call us at (513) 947-8727.

You can also learn more about our lawn care applications and treatments, landscaping, and outdoor lighting services by reading our blog. In addition to fertilizer and weed control, we also provide mosquito control, lawn aeration, lawn seeding, and much more.