It’s a Case of Mistaken Identity

It is hard not to get excited about anything green, budding and flowering in the early throws of spring. However, some plants, such as Lesser Celandine, are invasive and their negative impact far outweighs their beauty. Poachers and shoppers beware; planting a few of these yellow jewels will have you cursing the day a few months from now.

The Bad
Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), was introduced to the United States as an ornamental plant. It hales from Europe. Unfortunately, Lesser Celandine has become a threat to native plants and native plant diversity. And for urban gardeners, it can easily overtake a lawn. Lesser Celandine out-competes native plants with its very early seasonal growth coupled with a dense network of roots and tubers. Over time it forms extensive carpets in natural areas, crowding out native plants, especially native ephemerals.

Take a close look at the leaves of Lesser Celandine; they are flat and lobed. To me, they look like shiny, green shingles. Also, they have leaves and flowers at the same time- a great ID feature.

The Good

Winter aconite, (Eranthis hyemalis) is one of the earliest bulbs to bloom in spring and is in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). A native to Asia Minor and Europe, its small flowers resemble tiny buttercups. The solitary, yellow cup-shaped flowers are surrounded by bright green bracts that look like a collar around the blossom. Flowers have six petals.

You will find this in low-growing, rounded clumps about (3-6“) tall and wide. A key feature to look for is the narrow leaf that is divided into several finger-shaped lobes that appears after the flowers fade.

Use with caution! The tuber of winter aconite is quite poisonous and may cause nausea, vomiting, colic attacks and visual disturbances.

Use: Rock gardens, flower beds and woodland gardens. A very early bloomer, Winter Aconite is great for naturalizing under trees and large shrubs. For best results, plant in groups. This plant will go doormat in summer with the foliage dying back completely, so take that that into consideration when incorporating into you design plans.


Premature Spring Fever

This is a common ailment of gardeners. With the slightest hint that winter is ready to make its exit, we are looking for signs that spring will be here, tomorrow. We inspect magnolia buds and search for crocus and daffodil leaves pushing up through the snow. We check our hellebores each day and ask fellow gardeners, Has the Witchhazel bloomed? Yes, we push the start of spring. But can you blame us?

Garden magazine, seed catalogs, even HGTV, seduce us with lush garden pictures, new seeds to be sown and stories of happy people in warmer climates toiling away in their yards. And I am certain that I was not the only one casing garden center parking lots for the first shipments of mulch, pansies and woody ornamentals. To call us obsessed is unkind and fails to understand what it is that makes us gardeners.

Gardeners are helplessly optimistic. We believe beyond a doubt that the rose that failed us last year will flourish this year; the garden redesign we worked on all winter will repay us with continuous bloom and that grubs, mites, squirrels and the neighbor’s dog will pass by our garden to wreak havoc elsewhere.

So why would we not want spring to arrive? We know that this is the year that our garden will be just as we always knew it would be and we can not wait to see it!