HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Central Virginia has a case of pretty poison popping up around the region.
Experts are warning Virginians of an invasive species known as “lesser celandine” harming local wildlife. Henrico residents told 8News they have found and reported the harmful plant at sites like Deep Run Park. The species tends to grow in places with wet soil, such as near large bodies of water.
Dr. W. John Hayden is a biology expert and a professor at the University of Richmond. He discussed the invasive species with 8News.
“It’s a rather pretty little spring flowering wildflower,” Hayden explained. “Until fairly recently, it was classified in the same genus with buttercups.”
However, looks can be deceiving. Lesser celandine is native to Europe and isn’t one you want to see here in central Virginia.
It’s known as a “Monospecific stand.” In the plant world, this means once it blooms in a location, it tends to aggressively take over that environment. The Virginia Department of Forestry urged central Virginians to be on the lookout.
“It is a very aggressive plant,” Hayden explained.
Like many other invasive plants, lesser celandine isn’t directly harmful to humans, but it can have a negative effect on our native plant populations.
“At this point, it is certainly degrading the quality of that environment,” Hayden said. “It displaces the food sources for all sorts of native wildlife.”
The tiny yellow, grounded flowers take over sources of nutrients and local wildlife can’t use it as a food replacement, which adds fuel to the fire — helping it spread in areas where it is not wanted.
Residents of areas in which the plant has been found are asking how to stop it. Hayden offered some tips.
“It’s a tricky plant to remove because it has thick roots on the ground, which tend to break when you try to pull them,” Hayden said. “The best solution is to be vigilant and spot it when it’s a small population.”
As Hayden noted, if you spot these little yellow flowers, it’s best to try to uproot them immediately, but in some cases, they might require some sort of herbicide treatment. Experts recommend an abundance of caution when doing this, however.
Since these plants are often found near bodies of water, you don’t want to harm the water supply or surrounding native species with chemicals. Contact your local cooperative extension office or the Department of Forestry to determine a response plan.