Ranunculus hispidus (Hispid Buttercup)

Plant Info
Also known as: Bristly Buttercup, Swamp Buttercup, Marsh Buttercup
Family:Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade; moist woods, seeps, along streams
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:6 to 18 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flower] A single flower at the end of a long, hairy but otherwise naked stalk that arises from some leaf axils in the upper part of the plant. Flowers are ¾ to 1¼ inches across with 5 shiny, yellow, generally oval petals and numerous yellow stamens surrounding a green center. The base of the petals is greenish with streaks that serve as nectar guides for visiting insects. The 5 yellowish to light green sepals behind the flower are shorter than the petals, by as much as half, and may be spreading or bent back away from the flower (reflexed).

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: compound Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Both basal and alternate stem leaves are compound in groups of 3, becoming smaller as they ascend the stem, though some basal leaves may be simple lobed, especially the early growth. Leaflets are cleft or lobed, usually in 3 parts, up to 3 inches across and wide, with irregular teeth around the edges, on stalks covered in long hairs, and usually with a wedge-shaped base. The end leaflet is largest and basal leaves have the longest stalks. Leaves are hairy to varying degrees, especially along major veins on the underside. Stems are hairy. The plant grows erect or sprawling but rising at branch tips (decumbent), sometimes rooting at the nodes.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit (var. nitidus)] The flower center expands to an oval to hemispheric seed head up to 3/8 inch wide. Seeds are teardrop shaped, flattened, with a distinct rib or wing all around the edge.


There are 2 varieties of Ranunculus hispidus in Minnesota: var. caricetorum, found throughout the state, was once considered a separate species, R. caricetorum. The other, var. nitidus, is less common in MN, restricted mostly to about the southern third of the state and was once known as R. septentrionalis. The differences between the two are primarily the shape of the seeds, with var. nitidus having a wide (to 1.2mm) rib/wing all around the edge, and var. caricetorum a narrow one (to .2mm). A more subtle and less reliable difference is whether the sepals are spreading (var. caricetorum) or bent back (either).

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County, and in Goodhue County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken in Anoka and Goodhue counties. Photo courtesy Keir Morse taken at Interstate State Park, Chisago County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Jill - Faribault, Rice County
on: 2013-05-21 22:25:47

These are blooming right now (5/21/13) along the Straight River in Faribault. I saw them today along some of the trails at River Bend Nature Center. They don't seem to mind rainy, cloudy days as they were open and blooming as if the sun was shining bright.

Posted by: Chris - Blue Earth County
on: 2015-05-03 13:49:38

I have had something very similar to these in leaf, flower, and habit in my garden for almost 30 years. They came from a garden in Douglas County. My son "naturalized" some on the edge of our thicket years ago. My first question is, what is the second or third type of non native buttercup? (first being tall buttercup) Because I'm wondering,"is that what I have?" p.s. one difference in mine that I can see, greenish streaks at the base of the petals are absent. Thanks!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-05-06 22:49:29

Chris, the absence of green streaks doesn't mean it's a different species. Most species have natural variations. If the leaf shape, degree of hairiness, etc. match, R. hispidus, you likely have it. If you still aren't sure, post an image on our Facebook page and we'll take a look.

Posted by: Timothy Johnson - Hennepin County
on: 2020-05-20 21:38:39

Blooming today on the banks of the Mississippi River at the Coon Rapids Dam park.

Posted by: Helen C Stoerzinger - Inver Grove Heights
on: 2020-07-03 09:44:50

What has leaves like this buttercup and green hairy stems, but is 3'-5' tall - and hasn't flowered yet (July 3)? A whole group of plants is maybe 10'x 10' and growing where the IGH city has reconstructed the area between storm water drains and the sometime-pond on the land next to ours. Also growing next to it: sweet yellow clover, yellow garden rocket, and (long-time) garlic mustard.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-07-03 13:53:29

Helen, check out Ranunculus acris, the common weedy buttercup.

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