More on lesser celandine in WNY: questions & discussion for next year

yard covered in lesser celandine
The Tonawanda yard on the right is completely covered in lesser celandine, and the invasive plant is making its way into the neighbor’s yard on the left. Photo by Sabina Missana

by Connie Oswald Stofko

A month ago, I published Lesser celandine is back: What to do if it’s already out of control, but I still keep getting questions from readers. I also have gotten comments on that article and previous lesser celandine articles about how bad the situation has become on their property.

Let’s address some of these issues.

You can’t apply herbicide once the plant has flowered. Why?

Here’s the answer from Andrea Locke, coordinator of WNY PRISM (Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management):

“Long story short, glyphosate is a growth inhibitor and if the plant isn’t actively growing, it doesn’t work.

“Longer story: Glyphosate is an amino acid inhibitor (mode of action)/growth inhibitor and it disrupts a very specific part of the photosynthetic process that allows for the development of a specific amino acid (mechanism of action). This specific mechanism only occurs within the photosynthetic process (of most modern plants, but not all) while the plant is actively growing. Once a plant begins to flower, it essentially stops growing, therefore the single pathway by which glyphosate works isn’t active.”

How about removing the flowers, then applying herbicide?

Locke answers: “You can ‘trick’ plants into actively growing by mowing them—this is a tool/method commonly used by land managers to extend and/or manipulate the timing for effectively treatment. But just removing the flowerheads isn’t enough. In addition, it’s difficult to mow lesser celandine low enough to spur new growth.

“Right now the plants are closer to going dormant than growing. Spraying the plants late amounts to wasting effort/herbicide.

“My best advice for folks is to mark where it is and learn how to identify leaves and prepare for next year. Get an early start as soon as it greens up.”

If people mow lesser celandine when it’s in flower, are they possibly spreading seeds? 

Locke answers: “Not seeds, no. But the danger in mowing is that the mower could pull up the plants, cut and fling out the roots, spreading the plant. This is especially a concern if the ground is moist/wet because it pulls out so easily.”

What should we do for other gardeners?

Here’s part of a comment from a gardener in Genesee County: “We were just quoted $2,500 to remove the huge patches in our Genesee County front yard (brought in by a water line maintenance ‘seeding’ several years ago). For several years when it was tiny and harmless, whenever we dug out a place to put in a tree or sidewalk, we just dumped the lawn waste in our back lot not knowing how quickly it would cover 1/2 acre.”

I bet that gardener wishes someone had told them early on what that plant was and how they should deal with it.

But I see lesser celandine all around my neighborhood and I don’t warn people about it.

I notice one yard in particular. The garden is full of spring bulbs and pretty yellow flowers—lesser celandine. I often think I should knock on the door and let the folks know what this plant is, but they live on another block and I don’t know them. And maybe they’re not home.

Maybe I should leave on note on their door. Would that be weird? Or would they be happy to find out what those pretty yellow flowers could do to their yard? And what it might cost them in dollars and cents to get rid of them? What would you do?

How should we spread the word?

Please leave a comment.

9 Comments on “More on lesser celandine in WNY: questions & discussion for next year

  1. Hi Mindy, I’ve been thinking about your suggestion for a few days now. Maybe we need some kind of education campaign. Perhaps garden clubs and other groups would have ideas, too. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Hi Linda, here’s some information from Cooperative Extension/University staff and volunteers within participating Land-Grant institutions from across the United States. See suggested alternative plants here. Some examples of plants native the eastern U.S. include wild ginger (Asarum canadense), Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), squirrel-corn (Dicentra canadensis), cutleaf toothwort (Cardamine concatenata), twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla), and bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). I will continue to find more help for local gardeners.

  3. Hoping someone has some ideas. We have a long hellstrip that is right in the path of the wind and surrounded by neighbors that are doing nothing about their celandine. I have had to spray for several years in a row because it is too much to dig, but then I have mud and grass seedlings for the rest of the year. Is it possible that a ground cover could fill in instead of this losing grass battle? I think it would need to be a perennial ground cover that the celandine could not penetrate. I would cover the strip with cardboard, topsoil and mulch first, which worked other places in my yard, then plant the ground cover next year, leaving some brick paths for the car parkers. A friend had oregano in her hellstrip, but it is no match for the celandine. Thanks for any ideas!

  4. All I can say is if this is “lesser” celandine I’d hate to see what “ greater” celandine is! It’s truly horrible; I try to use only organic gardening methods but I swear I’d use napalm if it would work! ( only kidding🙀)

  5. Maybe you could print the article and leave it with them as an fyi. They might appreciate the help!

  6. It sounds like we feel comfortable talking to people we know, but we’re not going to start the conversation with someone we don’t know. Even if we see their yard full of lesser celandine.

  7. I am so glad that you are addressing this issue, because last year for the first time I was finally aware that this new seemingly pretty flower was celandine. Think it came from new neighbors moving in and digging up stuff. I try as early as possible to remove it – its the tiny little bulbs at end of plants that are hard to get out. We were at dinner last week at a Lancaster restaurant and had to park couple blocks away off of Aurora. I couldn’t believe my eyes when two houses near a corner had almost complete lawns full of it. So scary to think how quickly it takes over. Going to tend to the last two volleyball sized patches this week. I also am moving, want to take some perennials with me and don’t want to carry that along. I think the more people you tell – the better. I have run across experienced gardeners who don’t know what it is.

  8. This was a hot topic in the locker room after water aerobics last week. People shared their personal experiences and what they have learned from you and other sources and miserable experiences. Wherever we encounter interested gardeners we can keep sharing. Part of me feels like we have already lost the battle after walking through Forest Lawn last year. Sad.

  9. I’m with you, Connie! I would like to know if I had lesser celandine in my yard but I hesitate to tell neighbors I don’t know that they have it in theirs for fear of offending them.

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