Lesser Celandine
Ranunculus ficariaRanunculaceae
Photos (c) Cheryl Comeau Beaton unless otherwise noted


  • Fig buttercup

The Plant:

  • An herbaceous perennial ground cover, 4-12 inches long. Plants begin growing in the late winter or early spring.

The Leaves:

  • glossy
  • fleshy
  • dark green
  • sometimes slightly mottled
  • long petioles
  • round-kidney shaped
  • entire or wavy margins
  • lower leaves usually opposite
  • 0.7-1.5 inches long and 0.75-1.5 inches wide
  • in June the aboveground portion of the plant dies down

The Flowers:

  • Glossy, bright yellow flowers with eight to twelve petals, .4 to .75 inches across. Blooms from late April to early May.

The Fruits:

  • achenes start green and mature to dry, brown
  • form a tight, globular cluster
  • hairy, beakless

The Habitat:

  • does best in moist areas
  • forested floodplains
  • abandoned fields, early successional forest
  • wetlands, wet meadows
  • disturbed areas, roadsides


  • seeds and vegetative tubers are moved by flooding and sometimes by the burrowing of animals
  • produces underground bulbils which aid in dispersal

Key ID Features:

  • sepals and petals present
  • reproduces via tubers or tiny bulbs

Similar Species:

  • While this may be confused with other buttercup species, most have upright stems
  • The native Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) is similar, but has five to ten yellow sepals and lacks petals (Lesser Celandine has both petals and sepals), has larger leaves, upright stems and is typically found in clumps while Lesser Celandine can form wide carpets of leaves
  • Gill-over-the-ground (Glechoma hederacea) has minutely hairy stems, round to kidney shaped leaves, and blue-violet flowers held in the leaf axils.


  • This species emerges earlier than spring blooming native plants and outcompetes them for resources. Since it forms such dense mats it can push out other early emerging spring plants. Many different cultivars of Lesser Celandine are still planted today and provide a means for further distribution of this easily spread invasive plant.
  • This species is not known on Nantucket as of December 2006.

Growth Form: Herb

Origin: North Africa, Europe

Level of Invasiveness for Nantucket: Potential Invasive

Level of Invasiveness for Massachusetts: Invasive

Massachusetts Cultivation Restrictions: importation ban, propagation ban

Credits: The Electronic Field Guide to the Invasive Plants of Nantucket (c) 2005-2006 Maria Mitchell Association, EFG Project, UMass Boston