Jim McKenney jimmckenney@starpower.net
Fri, 14 Apr 2006 14:27:09 PDT
Dell Sherk wrote: "I think of it as the golden star shaped flower that grows
in Lothlorien."

And you probably think baby Orcs are cute, especially with a frilly bonnet
of fresh Hobbit caul, don't you?

Most of us don't garden in Lothlorien. In any case, Ranunculus ficaria is
something I would expect to have come from Mordor, not Lothlorien.
Ranunculus ficaria plants are the Uruk-Hai of the plant world. 

Those of you nursing "cute" patches of it are, and here I'll switch
metaphors, tending a time bomb. 

It's not simply a matter of esthetics. I'm not at all weed phobic: when the
annual green and yellow tsunami overwhelms my garden, I used to enjoy it but
no longer.

There seems to be evidence that Ranunculus ficaria is allelopathic. That
means it kills other kinds of plants around it. When the lovely green mat
deliquesces sometime in late May, only the strongest plants touched by the
slimy blanket survive. Even established and otherwise robust herbaceous
plants will show damaged foliage where the dying lesser celandine foliage
has touched them - it can mildly simulate the damage of chemical burns or
actual fire scorching. If you are trying to establish something from seed in
an area where this plant grows, it will be an uphill battle. 

It's a particular threat to bulb gardens because bulbs are on about the same
growth schedule. When the lesser celandine mat dies down, so are many bulbs
dying down. As bulb gardeners, we're accustomed to the bare patch which
results. And chances are, we are not thinking about what's going on
underground - or why the abundant seed of our favorites which is self sown
does not seem to be resulting in broad drifts of those favorites.

This will probably be the plant which drives me to use an herbicide. Because
the surfactants in most herbicides kill amphibians, I have so-far eschewed
the herbicide route. But I'm weakening. 

This plant is definitely a pain in the nether regions - and that as much as
its appearance no doubt accounts for its old name pilewort. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone, sadly prime habitat for
Ranunculus ficaria.   

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