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Beware the Fig Buttercup! A new invasive found in the dunes

Submitted by Nathanael Pilla

What? an invasive species worse than garlic mustard? Please read on to learn about the Fig Buttercup. The fig buttercup is a new and worrisome record for northwest Indiana. With everyone’s help we can nip this in the bud!


A New Invasive: The Fig Buttercup

We all should know the evils of garlic mustard by now, but what if we told you that looming in the shadow of our precious woods is a worse invader. This unwanted intruder is the fig buttercup (Ranunculus ficaria). It is sometimes referred to as Ficaria verna with common names such as lesser celandine and pilewort. Fig buttercup creates a dense ground-cover in woodlands, floodplains, and moist disturbed areas. This ground-cover mat shades and chokes out most of our spring ephemeral flora. It is also very difficult to kill! The Fig Buttercup has been found in 2 locations. One in Lake County and one in Porter County. It is up to all of us to make sure this pest stays out of our Indiana landscape. Please let us know if you see it!

Here are some distinguishing characters that you can use to identify this species:

  1. Unlike our native marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), fig buttercup has 3 green sepals 

  2. It has 7-12 yellow petals (see photo above)

  3. Fig buttercup’s leaves are kidney to heart shaped with a variation in size

  4. It is an aggressive ground-cover

If you think you have seen this plant, take a photo of it with its sepals and leaves and report it on Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System (Edd Maps) App at or email me at   

It is imperative that we nip this buttercup in the bud and continue to save the dunes!

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