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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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Monday - May 28, 2012

From: Mechanicsville, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Invasive Plants, Managing Roadsides, Non-Natives, Plant Laws, Planting, Propagation, Poisonous Plants, Wildflowers
Title: Digging wild buttercup from roadside in Mechanicsville MD
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Plants, is it illegal to dig out wild buttercup in Maryland? I see them along the dirt road or just in the ditch. Since buttercup considered weed, I'm wondering what the law say about this. Thank you!

ANSWER:

We (excuse the pun) dug around quite a bit trying to find official word on disturbing roadside wildflowers in Maryland. We found this one website Wildflowers from the Maryland State Highway Administration. We know that in Texas, digging or gathering plants on a roadside is discouraged in the interest of safety, and that plants or seeds may not be removed from private land without the express permission of the landowner.

Now that we are pretty sure the State Troopers won't come after you, we will address this question in a different way. Are you sure you WANT to dig up and transplant "wild buttercups?" Let's talk about the common name.

We really hate plant common names. The Ranunculus (buttercup) genus has 41 species in our Native Plant Database. None of them have the common name "wild," but at least we are close. All buttercups are species of the genus Ranunculus (buttercup). So, there are 41 that we know of that are native to North America, and lots more that we haven't identified or are hybrids or non-natives. It is thought that many non-native wildflowers have come to North America in "wildflower seed mixes."

By various means, we finally decided that there was a good chance that what you are looking at in Maryland is Ranunculus repens, which is native to Europe, Asia and northwestern Africa. At the Lady Bird Wildflower Center, we encourage the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which they grow naturally. Native plants are already accustomed by centuries of experience to climates, rainfall and soils. We researched on that particular species to see what good and bad qualities it has.

University of Tennessee Extension Buttercup and Thistle in Your Pasture

King County, WA Noxious Weeds - Creeping Buttercup

Dave's Garden Ranunculus repens (Creeping Buttercup) with 8 negative comments on invasivness.

Our reading of this is that the "wild buttercup" would be only too happy to move to your garden, and Highway Department would not care at all, but you (and your neighbors) could be very sorry.

Compare these pictures with the ones you are seeing on the roadsides to see if that is what it is.

 

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