Spring watch…

Native plants aren’t the only ones gearing up for showing off this spring. Invasive plants are already beginning to make themselves known:

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This species was first spotted three years ago along the bank of a culvert inlet. It was mistaken for Marsh Marigold the first year.

The second year (2015), it did not fool us. The emerging Lesser Celandine plants and bulblets were removed with hand tools. After they were dug up, all plant material was thrown away in the household garbage can. To avoid infecting other areas, composting or use of city-sponsored garden debris cans were not an option.

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The plant is native throughout Europe and west Asia. It was introduced to North America as an ornamental. But, as soon as it jumped the garden wall, Lesser Celandine has been deemed “invasive.” This low-growing, perennial, fleshy dark green, heart-shape-leaved plant has very nasty habits out in the wild.*

Native spring ephemeral wildflowers often don’t stand a chance because the Ranunculus ficaria leaves appear in late winter and, once the plant multiplies in great numbers, they form dense mats which prevent the growth of most other plants. In fact, the Environmental Services folks in Portland, Oregon nick-named this plant “Death-in-dirt.”

It blooms from March until May with bright yellow flowers that are symmetrical with a slightly darker center and grow on separate stalks above the leaves. The number of petals on each flower ranges from six to 26. Double-bloom varieties have up to 60 petals. Lesser celandine is noted for having three green sepals, the supporting leaves attached to the base of the flower; look-alikes don’t have sepals.

Lesser Celandine prefers damp, shady locations and is spread by seed, but also more importantly, through small bulblets which are easily distributed in disturbed areas. Lesser Celandine seeds and bulblets are moved by soil movement which makes its removal from our watershed imperative. If left to grow on the bank of a flowing stream… floating seeds and bulblets gain a tremendous advantage to extend the areas invaded by Lesser Celandine.

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If seen… go dig and toss… immediately!

I suspect our wetland property was infected by seeds or bulbs  that found their way into the storm sewer from a suburban yard in the neighborhood behind us. A culvert empties directly into the riparian zone. We hope to find a remedy to this problem.


Photo challenge: “Seasons

13 comments

  1. Haha. Death in Dirt. That is a very appropriate name for many invasive plants. We have a few of them here, namely the Escoba weed. The tap roots are really long and they can survive through our harsh hot and dry season with very little water. I have been pulling the roots out of my front yard for years, but they always find a way to return. It is the same root that they use to make brooms ( Escobas) because the root is so long.

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  2. You are correct that these plants are not deemed invasive here in the UK and are allowed to grow, mostly in woodland areas. However they do seem to be invasive in my garden! They are difficult to get rid off because of those bulbous roots that you show. The more you try to dig up the more you just spread them around. Not too bad if you just have a single clump in decent soil, but I have quite large areas growing amongst tree roots (in quite a dry area actually) so I just have to try to stop them spreading too much and try to enjoy the pretty flowers. The RHS suggests mulching may help control the weed but is unlikely to eradicate it. It is a shame you have such a problem with this pest.

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  3. We try to plant only indigenous plants in our garden – they’re “water-wise”, resistant to our naturally occurring “pests”, and attract native birds and insects. It just makes so much sense that I can’t understand why people would want to plant exotics!?

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    1. Although not all exotics turn out to be invasive; I agree that indigenous plants are the best choice! Especially if it helps to keep habitats from becoming further fragmented. I really appreciate your perspectives 🙂

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