Ask the Clark Gardener

Flowers You Donít Want to See in Your Spring Garden

Roellyn Armstrong, Chairperson, FDCMG, Inc.

When spring arrives, we are treated to many beautiful floral ephemerals, those harbingers of the season that arrive each year to herald the new growing season. Among these flowers, we also may see the yellow flowers of lesser celandine, the delicate violets, and the star-shaped white flowers of the Star-of-Bethlehem. All of these prolific perennials are essentially invasive weeds, which can overtake a garden and lawn with their tenacity and thuggish behavior.

Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria or Ficaria verna)

Ranunculus ficariaLesser celandine is a non-native invasive, with glossy yellow buttercup-like flowers borne on shiny green heart-shaped leaves. It will spread quite easily in beds or lawns and is difficult if not impossible to fully eradicate. Native to Europe and northern Africa, western Asia and Siberia, it can spread in large patches taking over entire areas and crowd out other more desirable spring flowers. First introduced into the United States as an ornamental plant, it quickly escaped, and like most exotic plants which become invasive, it had no predators or competitors in its new habitat, horticultural advantages which have allowed it to literally carpet the country.

Common Blue Violets (Viola sororia or Viola papilionacea)

Ranunculus ficariaCommon blue violets, while very charming in a woodland setting, can very quickly take over in your lawn. The plant is a short-stemmed herbaceous perennial, meaning it disappears every winter, only to reappear just about anywhere it chooses next year. It is native to North America, but that does not make it desirable. It is not commonly pollinated by insects; rather most seeds are formed on flowers, lower on the plant or even underground, which do not open but self-pollinate. Talk about an unfair advantage! The leaves are dark green, heart-shaped, and the blue-violet or even white flowers have five rounded petals. The plant itself forms a basal rosette, typical of many perennials. In addition to the advantage of self-pollination, the seeds self-eject and the root system consists of a rhizome, all the better to form vegetative colonies. Good grief!

Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum)

Ranunculus ficariaLast, but not least among the showy early invasives is the white Star-of-Bethlehem. Once on your property, you will likely find it everywhere. Still being sold commercially as bulbs for the unsuspecting, this plant originated in South Africa and southern Europe. Its white star-shaped flowers are borne in clusters amid its thin linear basal leaves and slender stalk. The initial bulb will form tiny bulblets which will likely remain even if you succeed in entirely removing the original. Not a star for your garden!

So much for the invasive flowers of spring. Next time I will extol the virtues of certain summer annuals which keep on giving in your garden, year after year, much like your perennials.

Hoping to see you soon in the garden (albeit at a safe distance with a mask on),


Remember, if you have a comment or question, send them to me at And come for a visit!

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