Buttercup Control: How To Kill Unwanted Buttercup Weeds In Your Garden


The cheery yellow flowers of the Buttercup are actually quite pretty, but the Buttercup has an insidious nature, and will insert itself craftily into your landscape. The plant can be very difficult to control due to its habit of rooting at internodes and the long spidery roots that can re-sprout a new plant if left in the ground. Controlling buttercup weeds is important in livestock areas, where the plant is toxic, but also in the home garden unless you like a tumble of interlocked foliage covering up your chosen specimens.

Buttercup Weed Information

Creeping buttercup is in the Ranunculus family and known for its lovely flowers. However, buttercup is considered by many to be a weed due to its invasive and prolific nature. Buttercup control is particularly difficult in large scale infestations unless you wish to resort to an herbicide. Chemical control is one option, but there may be better ways to minimize the plant’s impact on your landscape.

The saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” may have the sting of truth in regards to buttercup. The plant would make a pretty picture gamboling over the landscape with its bright sunny yellow flowers and attractive lobed foliage, but grower be aware. One of the most important tidbits of buttercup weed information regards its rampant growth habit.

Not only do the plants seed like rabbits breed, but the creeping stems root and take hold as the plant scrabbles over soil. Each newly rooted spot is a new plant. Add to that that, the plant can reestablish itself with just a root or stem fragment and you probably get the picture that removal of the weed is going to be a challenge.

Controlling Buttercup Weeds Naturally

Minimizing the use of herbicides in the landscape is environmentally responsible and healthier for us and our planet. A plant like buttercup grows low to the ground so common measures, such as mowing, will not touch the weed. In addition, hoeing or rototilling is not effective, as it leaves behind small bits of plant matter that can grow anew.

Hand pulling is possible in small infestations, but you must use a tool designed to remove deep roots and get every bit of the weed. Wear protective clothing when handling the plants too, as the sap can seriously irritate the skin.

There are no known biological controls at this time to kill buttercup weeds. Changing the growing conditions in an area is one way to minimize the growth of the plant. Buttercup likes nutrient poor, compact soil with a low pH. Lower the acidity of soil, increase percolation and fertilize for cultural buttercup control.

Kill Buttercup Weeds Chemically

Once you have tried all the steps above to kill buttercup weeds, and only if they are still persistent, it is time to consider chemical warfare. Broadleaf formulas have some effectiveness against the pests. Glyphosate works well for spot control, but because it can kill any vegetation that comes in contact with the formula, it must be used carefully.

Selective control formulas target specific plant pests. An herbicide with aminopyralid is safe to use around grass and livestock. It has a low hazard rating for mobility and persistence in soil. To treat 1,000 square feet, mix 1 teaspoon with 2 gallons of water and spray onto the affected area. Use protective clothing and follow the application directions for any herbicide.

Once you get a handle on the weed, be vigilant and attack the problem at the first signs of recurrence.

Note: Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are safer and much more environmentally friendly.


Buttercups in Pastures and Hayfields

I am David Ridle, Skagit Farmers Supply Country Stores Agricultural Products & Services Consultant. Recently I’ve received several calls regarding Buttercup, Ranunculus sp., in pastures and hayfields. Folks are concerned because Buttercup has multiple impacts, i.e., the plant is both invasive and moderately toxic (more information).

Impacts

Creeping buttercup’s competitive growth crowds out other plants, especially in wet soils. One plant can spread over a 40 square foot area in a year. Creeping buttercup also depletes potassium in the soil and so can have a detrimental effect on surrounding plants. Because creeping buttercup can tolerate heavy, wet soils, it can be a particularly bad problem on well-watered lawns, wet meadows and poorly drained pastures. In addition to invading wet grassy areas, creeping buttercup is reported as a weed of 11 crops in 40 countries.

Fresh buttercup plants are toxic to grazing animals, who can suffer from salivation, skin irritation, blisters, abdominal distress, inflammation, and diarrhea. Fortunately, buttercup has a strong, bitter taste so animals generally try to avoid it if more palatable forage is available. Also, the toxin protoanemonin is not very stable and loses its potency when dry, so buttercup is not generally toxic in hay. Unfortunately, livestock occasionally develop a taste for buttercup and consume fatal quantities. It is safest to keep populations of buttercup under control on grazed pastures and offer plenty of healthy forage.

To get rid of buttercups in your pasture or hayfield is a two step process spray to kill the existing buttercups and improve the conditions that favor grass production.

  1. For selective control of Buttercup in grassy conditions such as pastures and hayfields, use the herbicide MCP Amine plus an adjuvant (wetting agent) such as Class Act. Spot treat rate is 0.25 pint MCPA to 3-4 gallons of water. Per acre rate is 2-3 pints MCPA. Use 1.25 cups Class Act to three gallons of spray mixture or 2.5 gallons of Class Act to 100 gallons of water. READ AND FOLLOW ALL LABELS. Haying restriction: Do not harvest treated area for hay until 21 days after treatment. Two or three treatments may be necessary to control Buttercup due to weed seed soil bank and the ability of mature plants to recover.
  2. Improve conditions for grass by fertilization, overseeding, liming and not over-grazing. Reduce soil compaction by aerating and avoid trampling when soils are wet. Consider fertilizing during the first half of September, ahead of the fall rains. If the stand is thin, overseeding is best accomplished mid September to mid October with a large seed species such as perennial ryegrass (pastures) or festulolium (pastures and hayfields). Harrow to establish good seed to soil contact. Lime is generally applied in the fall and is added to improve the ability of grass to compete against Buttercup and other weeds such as moss. For best results, soil test every 3-5 years to accurately determine what soil nutrients and amendments are needed.


Identifying and Controlling Common Winter Weeds in Your Pastures

Winter annual weed competition can be damaging to early spring forage field. Most winter annual weeds will germinate in late fall, grow during the winter months, and reach a reproductive stage in the early spring when they become more problematic and then senescence (die) when temperatures increase in late spring. Those plants that reach the seed production stage will leave seed behind that will germinate the following fall.

Weed control decisions in pastures are usually based on visual thresholds and making sure that you can target as many weeds species as possible with a broad spectrum herbicide application. Fields should be scouted to determine if a treatment is warranted. The herbicide selection, application rate, and application time will depend on the growth stage of the target weed species. These milder temperatures that we are experiencing can provide ideal conditions to control some of those troublesome weeds.

What are the some of the common troublesome winter weeds in pastures? – Some of the most common troublesome winter weeds include buttercup, henbit, musk thistle, and wild barley.

Buttercup (Ranaculus sardous) is an annual broadleaf weed with deeply lobed leaves and also known as crowfoot. It has a fibrous root system or thickened rootstock or bulbs. The green stem can be a single stalk or can branch from the base with hairs. The leaves form a rosette at the base of the plant. The leaves in the stem are usually alternated, lobed or divided. Buttercup producers shiny, golden-yellow flowers with five petals and five green sepals. Buttercup can be toxic to all species of livestock due to an irritant oil called protoanemonin. This toxin is released by the plant when it is chewed or wounded. This toxin is present in both the stems and leaves and mature flowering plants higher toxin concentrations than younger plants. Although buttercup toxicity is uncommon in cattle, it can occur when there is short supply of forage for the animal to consume, but buttercup is usually unpalatable. Some signs of toxicity include blistering of the mouth and internal parts of the ruminal tract, abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, colic, convulsions, and in severe cases, death. In lactating cows, the milk will be bitter and may be reddish in color. Buttercup toxicity in hay should not be a concern since the toxin becomes inactivated when it is dried. For chemical control, 2,4-D will effectively control buttercup, but depending on what other target weeds might be present, other herbicides such as paraquat, triclopyr plus fluroxypyr, aminopyralid plus metsulfuron, diflufenzopyr plus dicamba, nicosulfuron plus metsulfuron, triclopyr plus clopyralid, picloram plus fluroxypyr, chlorosulfuron, and herbicide mixtures containing 2,4-D with dicamba or picloram are highly recommended. Although weather conditions can be different each year, late February to early march might be the best time for late winter herbicide application. During this time, buttercups are actively growing and that not started to bloom.

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) is an annual winter broadleaf weed that sometimes gets confused with purple nettle. It is probably one of the most common winter annual weeds in annual ryegrass pastures along with buttercup. Henbit has a fibrous root system. The plant has rounded or triangular leaves and hairy green or purplish square stems with ascending branches. The leaf margins have rounded teeth with very distinctive veins. Leaves tend to be dark green above and light green below. It has bright pink/purple flowers with long necks. The plant can reach growth heights of 12 to 16 inches. Henbit is a shade-resistant weed that can survive well under small grain or annual ryegrass pastures. The herbicide 2,4-D alone is usually not very effective against controlling henbit. On the other hand herbicides such as paraquat, triclopyr plus clopyralid, mixtures of 2,4-D with glyphosate, dicamba, picloram, aminopyralid, metsulfuron, or metsulfuron plus dicamba could be more effective in controlling henbit. The best time for control is usually later November or mid-February to mid-March.

Musk Thistle (Carduus nutans) is a biennial winter weed also known as nodding thistle and nodding plumeless thistle. It has a fleshy tap root. Basal rosettes are usually well developed and leaves are dark waxy green, alternate, deeply lobed and spiny white margins. The leaves also have a very distinctive light green midrib. This weed can develop a single or several stems from the base of the rosette and highly branched at the top. Most of the flowers appear in late May to early June. Flowers form at the top of the stem and they can be deep rose, violet or purple, and occasionally white with lance-shaped spine bracts at the base of the flower. The seeds are long, shiny, and yellowish-brown with a plume of white-like bristles. Seed can mature and are dispersed by wind 1 to 3 weeks after flowering. It prefers moist, bottom land soil, but can also be found on drier uplands. Musk thistle is a prolific seed producer with approximately 10,000 seeds per plant and a single plant can produce up to 100,000 seeds in one season. Those seeds could be viable in the soil for up to 10 years. There are different type of thistles (such as bull, tall, Canada, sowthistle, etc.) that can be very invasive and they should be controlled during the winter or very early spring for better control. Glyphosate and paraquat can be used effective treatments to control thistles if they are in the rosette stage (laying close to the ground). If the thistle has bolted (began to raise from the ground and put a stalk) or are producing seed heads, they can be more difficult to control. Herbicide treatments that can be effective against mature thistles include 2,4-D, metsulfuron methyl, and mixtures of 2,4-D with picloram, aminopyralid, or dicamba. The best time for control in mid-February to April.

Wild Barley (Hordeum pussillum) is a short winter annual grass also known as foxtail barley or little barley and it resembles wheat or barley with it reaches maturity. It is a shallow-rooted bunchgrass weed that can producer in most soil types. Seeds germinate at the soil surface in cooler temperatures in the fall, but are common in the spring. This bunchgrass is very distinguishable by its long awns of bristles. Mature leaves have flat blades that are evenly spaced with fine hairs along the edges and a membranous ligule. The leaf sheath has split, overlapping, and translucent margins. The stems are slender and erect. The seed heads form spikes the most upper part of the stems and they have long, fine needle like awns or bristles that can poke the mouth of livestock. Seed heads turn brown when mature. Seed are dispersed by wind and seed viability declines rapidly after three years. In dormant pastures, little barley can be controlled with a diuron (pre-emerge), glyphosate, sethoxydim, nicosulfuron plus metsulfuron methyl (dormant bermudagrass), imazethapyr, or glyphosate in combination with nicosulfuron plus metsulfuron. Little barley can be controlled with nicosulfuron plus metsulfuron if applied before the mid-boot stage. The best time for control in early-March to early April.

Due to the chemical composition of herbicides, it is always important to read the label before handing, mixing, or applying herbicides and to practice good stewardship. Legumes such clovers interseeded with cool-season grasses can be severely injured or killed by herbicides products used to control some these troublesome winter weeds. Glyphosate and paraquat should not be applied except during extended periods of mild temps (3 days at 60 °F or more). For best herbicide activity, wait until daytime air temperatures are greater than 50 °F for two to three consecutive days. Several of the herbicides used in forage production usually have grazing and haying restrictions associated with the application. For more information on haying and grazing restriction associated with herbicides and application rates, please consult the forage section in the Weed Control Guidelines for Mississippi (Publication 1532).

DISCLAIMER: This article is for educational purposes only. Mention of a trademark, proprietary product, specific product, or vendor does not constitute a guarantee or warranty of the product by Mississippi State University and does not imply its approval or endorsement to the exclusion of other products or vendors that also may be suitable. Always read the product label prior to using any herbicide.

Weed Species
Bullthistle

Weed Species
Buttercup

Weed Species
Henbit

Weed Species
Little Barley


How to Prevent Buttercup From Growing in Your Lawn

If you’ve just removed any and all Buttercups from your lawn then my guess is that you don’t want it growing back.

If has been growing in your lawn then chances are, there might be other weeds too.

So how do you prevent them from growing back?

Well, having weeds in your lawn is often a symptom of other problems, not the actual problem. Yes, even the most well cared for lawn might be home to the odd weed every now and again. But if you have a lot of weeds it’s a sign that your lawn isn’t as healthy as is should be.

The following a lawn calendar treatment routine will improve the health of your lawn and make it hard for weeds to grow

Mow the Grass Often

Cutting the grass is the most important, yet most overlooked part of lawn care.

Many people make the mistake of cutting the grass infrequently, letting it grow long and then cutting it too short.

When you let the grass grow long, it grows upwards instead of sideways so it doesn’t form new shoots and grass leaves. This can result in a lawn that’s not very dense.

Then when you do cut it, you take away all of its water and food stores. And because you’ve cut away all of its leaf, it can’t trap light and produce food via photosynthesis.

As a result, your grass gets shocked and turns brown, sometimes it even dies.

However, when you cut the grass regularly it can’t grow upwards and it’s forced to grow sideways. This causes the grass to grow new shoots, new roots, and new leaves, resulting in a thicker, lusher, denser lawn.

Mowing the lawn on a regular basis also means that you don’t cut off as much leaf. The grass gets to keep its food and water and is able to produce more food.

Perfect for a healthy lawn!

De-Thatch Your Lawn By Scarifying

Lawn thatch is a layer of decaying and living organic matter that lies between the grass and the surface of the soil.

It’s made up of old grass clippings and runners that grow above the surface (called Stolons) and below the surface (called Rhyzomes) as well as other material.

All lawns have thatch and some thatch is a good thing as it protects the crown of the grass plant. But too much can prevent water, air and nutrients from penetrating the soil. This means the grass isn’t able to get the nutrients it needs to grow and produce food.

The result is a weak, unhealthy lawn that’s not very dense and feels spongy underfoot. This is the perfect environment for weeds and moss to grow and take over.

Lawn scarification is a simple process that’s used to remove excess lawn thatch. It creates space for water, air and nutrients to penetrate the soil, giving the grass what it needs to grow and stay healthy.

Relieve the Lawn of Soil Compaction by Aerating

Soil compaction is the result of heavy lawn use.

As the kids and pets play on the lawn, the soil underneath gets compacted. Air and water around the soil particles get squeezed out as they get pushed together.

When air and water get pushed out, it can’t get back in, starving the grass of the nutrients it needs to produce food and grow. Also, roots can’t establish themselves well when the soil is so hard.

The result is hard, often dry ground with threadbare grass which is a paradise for weeds and moss.

Aeration (either through spiking in the spring or hollow-tining in the autumn) allows air, water and nutrients to penetrate the soil, providing the grass with what it needs to grow.

Apply a Good Quality Fertiliser at Least Once a Year

If your lawn is full of thatch and the soil is compacted then the odds are that it’s lacking in nutrients.

Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphate are vital to the health of the grass and its ability to produce food and grow. Which oftentimes, can only come from fertiliser.

There are many different types of fertilisers all designed to be used at different times of the year. This might be a bit much if you’re not very green-fingered but just one application of a good quality, slow-release fertiliser a year will improve the health and look of your lawn immensely.


Buttercups tend to be a problem in damp parts of lawns. Buttercup can tolerate wet soil conditions better than many other species, so buttercup out competes the grasses, and creeping buttercup in particular spreads rapidly. Giant buttercup is not as common as creeping buttercup but is the most aggressive of the buttercups found in New Zealand. It is commonly found in parts of the North Island.

  • Buttercup, particularly creeping buttercup can be difficult to eradicate from lawns. Kiwicare LawnPro Turfclean Ultra, LawnPro Prickle and Hydrocotyle, LawnPro Turfclean orAll-in-1 applied to the lawn will control it but a second application may be necessary for eradication.

In Flowerbeds

  • In flowerbeds or on paths Weed Weapon Extra Strength or Rapid Action will control buttercup quickly without harming soil.

In Paths and Driveways

  • Weed Weapon Long Term will kill buttercup and prevent its return for several months making it particularly useful on paths, driveways and other non-cultivated areas.


Chances are you don’t have to worry about this invasive plant in your yard. But if you do, knowledge is power and we hope this description will inform you of the tactics you can take to rid your yard of this nuisance plant.

Always feel free to reach out to Whitehouse Landscaping for help with your landscaping. Our Property Care & Maintenance Services are all-encompassing and were created with all of your needs in mind. Whether it is landscape design and installation, hardscaping or landscape maintenance, let Whitehouse Landscaping be your one-stop-shop for your outdoor needs. Visit us on our website, or call 484-300-4290 if we can be of service.


Watch the video: How to Kill Buttercup Weeds


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