Buttercup, Tall

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Pest Information
Common Name: Buttercup, Tall
Family Name: Ranunculaceae
Latin Name: Ranunculus acris L.
Other Names: Tall Crowfoot, Meadow Buttercup, Blister Plant, Field Buttercup, Giant Buttercup
Provincial Designation: Noxious
Seed Act Designation: Secondary noxious
Life Cycle: Perennial
Mode of Spread: Seed, Vegetative

Detailed Information
Provincial Situation: Tall buttercup occurs more predominantly in central and western Alberta.
Where it Grows (Habitat & Ecology): Tall buttercup is typically found in forage crops, hay lands, pastures, rangelands, roadsides streambanks and wetlands.  It is generally not a problem in cultivated fields.  Tall buttercup prefers heavy, moist soils but can grow in sandy or gravelly soil if there is sufficient moisture available.
How it Spreads (Mode of Spread):

Each plant produces about 250 seeds that can remain viable for 2-4 years.

The seeds generally fall close to the parent plant but may be carried long distances on the fur or hooves of animals or in the gut of grazing animals.  The seeds remain viable after passing through the intestinal tract of cows.  Other seed dispersal vectors include infested hay, farm equipment, clothing and footwear.

Economic Importance (Beneficial Aspects): Tall buttercup is typically found in forage crops, hay lands, pastures, rangelands, roadsides streambanks and wetlands. It is generally not a problem in cultivated fields. Tall buttercup prefers heavy, moist soils but can grow in sandy or gravelly soil if there is sufficient moisture available.
Toxicity and Other Concerns:

Tall buttercup is toxic to livestock (especially cattle) and other grazing animals.  When the fresh plant is ingested, enzymes break down the sap within the stems and leaves into a compound called protoanemonin that can cause irritation or blistering of the skin, mouth and digestive tract of the animal.  In severe cases, it can cause paralysis, convulsions and death.  Poisonings occur during grazing of the fresh plants.  Tall buttercup found in hay is not toxic as the compound decomposes upon drying making the hay safe for consumption.  Milk from cows fed tall buttercup contaminated hay may have a reddish colour and give it an unpleasant taste.  Stocking density and grazing capacity are reduced when tall buttercup is present within a pasture or field as the animals tend to avoid grazing the toxic plants.  Reduced grazing may promote the spread of the plant throughout the field.

Other concerns with tall buttercup are that it is an alternate host for Anemone Mosaic and Tomato Spotted Wilt virus and that some populations have shown resistance to group 4 herbicides.  Several populations in New Zealand have demonstrated resistance to the herbicide MCPA.

Origin: Non-native, introduced to North America from Eurasia in the 1800’s
How to Control:

Integrated weed management (IWM) considers the overall management of a weed species with the objective of preventing the establishment of the weed from ever occurring, to prevent the spread or to minimize the impact.  IWM relies on the combination of a variety of methods such as chemical, biological, mechanical, and cultural controls as well as overall preventative measures.  Using IWM creates an opportunity to use herbicides more selectively, which reduces the impact on the environment as well as slow the development of weed resistance to herbicides.

Good pasture management will help prevent tall buttercup.  Promote healthy grass by fertilizing and not overgrazing.  Use grass and forage seed that has a “Certificate of Analysis” declaring it free of tall buttercup seed.  Use hay that is free of tall buttercup.  Clean mowers and other equipment to avoid spreading tall buttercup seed into uninfested areas.

Cultural Control
Hand picking or digging up the entire plant, including the roots, before seed maturation will successfully eliminate the plant, but this practice is most effective for small infestations of Tall Buttercup.

Tall buttercup prefers wet soil so improving soil drainage will also discourage plant establishment.

Maintaining a vigorous grass stand in pasture and rangeland will provide good competition and help control tall buttercup and reduce the likelihood of an invasion.
Properly managed pastures where a competitive forage stand is maintained using fertilization will help control tall buttercup, but in poorly managed pastures, tall buttercup will use any nutrients that are added.

Tall buttercup will not survive cultivation so plowing and re-seeding to an annual crop for several years may reduce infestations.

Mowing prior to seed set can assist in reducing infestations.  Mowing must be timely to prevent further spread of the seed.

Tall buttercup is toxic to domestic animals and wildlife therefore grazing is not a recommended practice for control of tall buttercup.  Good grazing management that maintains a competitive and healthy grass stand will assist in preventing establishment of tall buttercup within the field.

Crops Affected: This is a test

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Last Modified: December 18, 2012

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