A real creep of a weed

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents -

IT’S AL­MOST the end of win­ter, so I de­cided to fo­cus on a weed that is best erad­i­cated in the spring months: creep­ing but­ter­cup. This typ­i­cal yel­low-flow­ered peren­nial plant is most com­monly found in gar­dens and cul­ti­vated pas­tures, in par­tic­u­lar the wet­ter and low ly­ing ar­eas of your pad­docks.

As a child, a pop­u­lar game from mem­ory was putting a but­ter­cup flower un­der­neath your chin to work out whether you liked but­ter or not, guar­an­teed to tell you yes!

Some­time be­tween here and early spring, take a walk, see if you can iden­tify the leaves of the but­ter­cup and if so, be­gin to de­velop a plan to elim­i­nate com­pe­ti­tion in your lawn or pas­tures.

The life cy­cle of the creep­ing but­ter­cup can last around 18 months. How­ever, in that time large stolons spread from the base of the plant and from there, daugh­ter plants grow from the nodes of the stolon. The but­ter­cup prefers to es­tab­lish in moist ar­eas, with high fer­til­ity. It has an un­canny knack to tol­er­ate wet con­di­tions, favour­ing sum­mer-safe ar­eas of New Zealand such as the Taranaki and Tararua ar­eas. Some say the name Ra­nun­cu­lus is Latin for ‘lit­tle frog’, based on its abil­ity to es­tab­lish near wa­ter­ways and damp ar­eas.

Iden­ti­fy­ing creep­ing but­ter­cup isn’t dif­fi­cult thanks to its dis­tinc­tive, bright flow­ers. The low-grow­ing plant is able to cre­ate a mat across your lawn or pas­ture. The leaves are hairy and tri­an­gu­lar in shape, around 5cm long and di­vided into three dis­tinc­tive lobes. Pale patches on the leaves are a dis­tinc­tive as­pect of the but­ter­cup.

There are two other com­mon but­ter­cups in New Zealand. One is the gi­ant but­ter­cup. Its leaves have more lobes which are more jagged but still the dis­tinc­tive yel­low flower. While the creep­ing plant has stolons, gi­ant but­ter­cup grows in height from clumps.

The other is hairy but­ter­cup, an an­nual weed which of­ten es­tab­lishes in au­tumn and sets seed in spring.

How to con­trol it

Elim­i­nat­ing the plant can be achieved a num­ber of ways. Man­u­ally pulling it is one op­tion but you need to make sure you get ev­ery­thing, oth­er­wise the plant can grow from even frag­ments of the root crown or stolon.

The best time to spray is from late au­tumn through to early spring. Seedlings are con­trolled but – like all weeds – the more ma­ture the plant, the less sus­cep­ti­ble to ac­tive in­gre­di­ents like MCPA, MCPB and ben­ta­zone. These chem­i­cals will have no im­pact on your grass, how­ever it can check your clovers.

Thifen­sul­furon also erad­i­cates but­ter­cup from pas­ture but is harsher on clover. Al­ways read the la­bel be­fore ap­ply­ing for the most up-to-date in­for­ma­tion. n

STEPHANIE SLOAN grew up on a sheep and beef farm in the Wairarapa. She is now part of PGG Wright­son’s agron­omy team, iden­ti­fy­ing weeds on a daily ba­sis.

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