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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - May 22, 2010

From: McKeesport, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Creeping buttercups in juniper in McKeesport PA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have creeping buttercups in my juniper ground cover. How do I get rid of them.

ANSWER:

Ranunculus repens, creeping buttercup, is native to Europe, Asia and northwestern Africa and therefore out of our range of expertise at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. However, this is both an invasive introduced species and poisonous, and we are interested in getting rid of that. This article from dgsgardening will give you some suggestions on getting rid of it.  Spraying a herbicide for broadleaf plants would help to dispose of it, although more mature plants could recover and seeds in the ground will probable also survive. The problem with that is that you are experiencing it invading a juniper ground cover, which we think might be Juniperus communis var. depressa (common juniper) or some closely related member of the Juniperus genus.  The reason that is a problem is that the broadleaf herbicides are designed to kill (what else?) broadleaf plants, as opposed to the monocots, narrow leaf plants, most of which are grasses. So, it would work in lawns, but also kill your juniper or any other broadleaf plants within range. 

This article from Oregon State University Extension on Weeds-Creeping Buttercup has more suggestions on treatment and/or control.  This article deals with the Northwest, but the plant is found all across the northern United States.

Your best bet is to control it with herbicide where it won't kill other broadleaf plants, and manually pull it out of the juniper. One suggestion we have seen recommends NOT pulling it out, because it can regenerate from a broken stem. However, if you can pull it out where the stolon emerges from the ground, you have a good chance. A word of caution from personal experience. We once had what we called prostrate juniper in a lot of our flowerbeds, and bermudagrass, another weedy introduced scourge found widely in the South, began to grow up through that juniper. We never gardened without gloves on, especially in that juniper, which is prickly and can leave you with an irritated skin. So, we plunged in, pulling out the grass, only to discover later that there was also poison ivy hidden in that juniper. The gloves had protected our hands but our right elbow was a nasty, itchy, ugly mess for a month of steroids, calamine lotion and scratching. 

Moral: Pull it out but protect yourself in the process.

Pictures of Juniperus communis var. depressa (common juniper) from Google

Pictures of creeping buttercups from Google. 

 

 

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