An alert was made in April 2013 about the invasive plant Fig Buttercup being found in Greenville County at Lake Conestee Nature Park. Take a good look at the picture and think of it as a wanted poster. If you see this on your property, it should be reported and brought to landfills dead, not alive.
It is a perennial herbaceous that comes out in early Spring and forms a cover which kills out native Toothworts, Dutchman’s Breeches, Trout Lily, Trillium and Bloodroot among many others. Protecting these native plants is important because they are the providers of critical nectar and pollen for native pollinators, and they supply fruits and seeds needed by other native insects and wildlife.
Other names for the plant are Lesser Celandine or Ficaria verna. It can be identified from a similar harmless plant called marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), by its numerous tubers and bulblets. These grow into new plants when disturbed by weed-pullers, animals, or storms and flooding washing them downstream. The marsh marigold is a native that grows in wetland habitats in the eastern United States.
Here is a more detailed description of the plant provided by the South Carolina Native Plant Society (SCNPS):
“Plants consist of a basal rosette of tender, succulent, dark green, shiny, stalked kidney- to heart-shaped leaves. Flowers are symmetrical, bright buttery yellow with a slightly darker center, have 8 (typical) to 12 petals, and are borne singly on delicate stalks that rise above the leaves. Tiny cream colored bulblets are produced in stem axils and become apparent later in the flowering period. Abundant fingerlike tubers are produced by the roots and are easily visible when plants are pulled up.”
Large infestations of the plant will spread over a forest floor, looking like a yellow-dotted green carpet. They especially like sandy soil and will appear in low open woods, floodplains, meadows and waste places.
In Greenville County, fig buttercup was found on a new trail accessed from Swamp Rabbit trail near the Churchill Circle intersection. It extends about 1.5 miles along the Reedy River floodplain and a lot of the infestation can be seen following the river where the banks have been overflowed.
See pictures of it in the SCNPS pdf. Evidence shows heavy equipment disruption of the area probably contributed to the growth as well.
To get rid of fig buttercup, pull up or hand dig every tuber with a trowel and put them in a plastic bag until dead or burn them. Be sure to get every piece and that they are completely dead before taking or sending them to the landfill. Unfortunately disturbing the soil may encourage other invasive plants. Systemic herbicides like Glyphosate are more effective and will kill the whole plant, but this chemical can be deterious to spring emerging sensitive-skinned frogs and salamanders. If chemicals are used, it is best to do it before April 1 and use hand methods after that time.
Green building includes green property management as well as dwelling construction. Contact Bill Stringer firstname.lastname@example.org to report spottings of Fig Buttercup to the SCNPS. View and
print Jim Miller’s publication Identification of Invasive Plants in Southern Forests for identification of 56 aggressive plants alarmingly invading 13 Southern States forests. Follow the recommendations for preventing and controlling these plants on your property.