Pretty yellow flowers? Check. Great for the landscape? No check! The fig buttercup, also known as the lesser celandine or pilewort, is a non-native plant from Europe and Northern Africa that has the potential to become a very bad invasive species in South Carolina. This spring ephemeral grows and blooms early in the spring, which helps it get established in natural areas and gives it a competitive advantage over native plants. It can grow in incredibly thick patches, take over entire areas, and crowd out native spring ephemerals (Fig. 1). The leaves (Fig. 2) and flowers (Fig. 3) are toxic if eaten, and may cause vomiting, nausea, or dizziness. The roots consist of thick tubers and bulblets, each of which can produce a new plant (Fig. 4). These underground structures can help the plant withstand periods of drought or poor growing conditions and they are also spread when soil is disturbed.
Like many invasive plants, fig buttercup was initially promoted as a landscape plant, but it escaped cultivation. Some varieties are still sold in many states, but it is illegal to move or sell any variety of Ficaria verna in South Carolina.
Fig buttercup thrives in moist areas, such as along streams, rivers, and ponds, and in low spots in natural areas.
Because of the short growing season and propensity to grow in moist/wet areas, control can be tricky. Patches can be removed by hand, but care must be made to ensure the tubers and bulblets are not left in the ground or accidentally spread elsewhere. The treatment window for herbicides is short, as plants are only actively growing from about February to April. Herbicides approved for use in wet areas (with an active ingredient of glyphosate, see Table 1 below) can be used. Generally, at least two years will be required to eradicate a fig buttercup population.
A three-way herbicide may be used on bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, and tall fescue lawns to control almost any broadleaf weed. The active ingredients of a three-way herbicide include the following broadleaf weed killers: 2,4-D, dicamba, and mecoprop (MCPP) or MCPA. Examples of three-way herbicides for residential lawns in homeowner sizes are:
- Ferti-lome Weed-Out Lawn Weed Killer – Contains Trimec® Concentrate
- Southern Ag Lawn Weed Killer with Trimec® Concentrate
- Bayer Advanced Southern Weed Killer for Lawns Concentrate; or RTS (Ready to Spray – a hose-end bottle)
- Spectracide Weed Stop Weed Killer for Lawns Concentrate; or RTS
- Bonide Weed Beater Lawn Weed Killer Concentrate
- Ortho Weed B Gon Weed Killer for Lawns Concentrate; or RTS
Note: Herbicides containing 2,4-D should be applied at a reduced rate on St. Augustinegrass and centipedegrass to prevent damage to these lawns. The product labels will give the rate to use for each type of turfgrass. If a second application is needed, apply the herbicide in spot treatments. Repeated applications of a three-way herbicide should be spaced according to label directions. Do not treat centipedegrass or St. Augustinegrass during their green-up time during the spring.
Alternatively, metsulfuron can be used for broadleaf weed control in warm-season turfgrasses: bermudagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, and zoysiagrass. Quali-Pro MSM Turf Herbicide is a product that contains metsulfuron, and Quali-Pro Fahrenheit contains dicamba along with metsulfuron. Follow label directions for mixing and use.
Note: Do not apply metsulfuron to the lawn if over-seeded with annual ryegrass or do not over-seed for 8 weeks after application. Do not plant woody ornamentals in treated areas for one year after application of metsulfuron. Do not apply metsulfuron herbicides within two times the width of the drip line of desirable hardwood trees or if temperature is over 85 °F. For these professional products, a non-ionic surfactant (such as Southern Ag Surfactant for Herbicides) is required at 2 teaspoons per gallon of spray mix for best control, but this may temporarily cause a chlorosis (a yellowing) of the turf. Do not treat centipedegrass or St. Augustinegrass during their green-up time during the spring.
In a landscape bed, glyphosate is the best choice. Buy 41% glyphosate at a feed & seed, farm store, or hardware store. Follow the label directions for making a 3% solution in a pump-up sprayer for spot spraying. Examples of glyphosate concentrate are:
- Roundup Original Concentrate,
- Roundup Pro Herbicide,
- Martin’s Eraser Systemic Weed & Grass Killer,
- Quick Kill Grass & Weed Killer,
- Bonide Kleenup Weed & Grass Killer 41% Super Concentrate,
- Hi-Yield Super Concentrate,
- Maxide Super Concentrate 41% Weed & Grass Killer,
- Super Concentrate Killzall Weed & Grass Killer,
- Tiger Brand Quick Kill Concentrate,
- Ultra Kill Weed & Grass Killer Concentrate,
- Gordon’s Groundwork Concentrate 50% Super Weed & Grass Killer,
- Zep Enforcer Weed Defeat III,
- Eliminator Weed & Grass Killer Super Concentrate,
- Monterey Remuda Full Strength 41% Glyphosate,
- Knock Out Weed & Grass Killer Super Concentrate,
- Southern States Grass & Weed Killer Concentrate II,
- Total Kill Pro Weed & Grass Killer Herbicide,
- Ace Concentrate Weed & Grass Killer.
If you think you have found fig buttercup, please contact Clemson Department of Plant Industry at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 864-646-2140.
Table 1. Herbicides for control of fig buttercup in moist or wet areas.
|Herbicides for Shoreline or Wet Areas||Brand & Product Name|
|Glyphosate||Dow AquaPro Herbicide|
|Durvet AquaVet Landscape & Aquatic Herbicide|
|Dow Rodeo Herbicide|
|Farmworks Aquatic Herbicide|
|Gordon’s PondMaster Surface & Shoreline Herbicide|
|Gordon’s GlyphoMate 41 Weed & Grass Killer Plus Aquatic Herbicide|
|Hi-Yield KillZall Aquatic Herbicide|
|Nufarm AquaNeat Aquatic Herbicide|
|PondOasis Shoreline Plant Control|
|Roundup Custom for Aquatic & Terrestrial Use|
|SePro Total Pond Emerge Cattail & Shoreline Weed Control|
|Shore-Klear Aquatic Herbicide|
|Shore-Klear Plus Aquatic Herbicide|
|Follow all label directions for mixing and use.|