Ranunculus aquatilis (White Water Crowfoot)

Plant Info
Also known as: Long-beak Buttercup
Family:Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; slow streams, ponds, lakes, wet ditches, marshes
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:1 to 6 inches above water
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: none NCNE: none
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 on a long naked stalk arising from a leaf axil. Flowers are 1/3 to 2/3 inch across, have 5 oval white petals with a spot of yellow at the base, and many yellow stamens surrounding a yellow center that matures to green. 5 rounded green sepals behind the flower are much shorter than the petals.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are finely divided into many thread-like segments, round to fan-shaped in outline, to ¾ inch long and about 1 inch wide, alternately attached. Stems and leaves are all submersed and mostly hairless.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

The flower center expands to a round to oval seed head, the seeds smooth to roughly hairy and with a beak almost as long as the seed body.


There are 2 varieties of Ranunculus aquatilis in North America; var. aquatilis is a more western species and var. diffusus is found in Minnesota as well as much of the US. This aquatic species also commonly goes by Latin name Ranunculus longirostris.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Isanti counties, MN, and in North Dakota.


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

Posted by: Diane - Lake Elmo Park Preserve, Eagle Lake
on: 2011-07-04 12:32:02

Spotted 3 masses of white water-crowfoot in flower while canoeing in the evening of July 2nd, 2011. It was calm, high pressure with blue skies. There was a lot of water celery, also in bloom, in approx 20% of the lake. Eagle Lake is non-motorized. We've not seen folks fishing or almost any other canoes/kayaks in the dozen years we've paddled there. High water this year and we didn't see any of the usual herons or egrets, muskrats or the occasional river otter. In "Wildflowers of Wisconsin and the Great Lakes Region" by Black and Judziewicz 2009, this plant is given an 8 out of 10, considered quite high-quality, found in almost all WI counties. Friends and I wish we had a similar field guide for MN.

Posted by: Jerry - St. Paul
on: 2015-06-01 10:00:10

Upper Crosby Lake in the southwest corner of St Paul in Crosby Lake Farm Regional Park, May 30 2015. An extensive blossoming throughout the lake. Seems like a first, as we have walked this area several times a week for ten years without seeing this. But that hardly seems likely, does it?

Posted by: Diana and James - Lakeville
on: 2015-06-08 16:08:49

Spotted along the Juno Trail last Friday. We'd never seen them before - I thought it was bunch of Cottonwood fluff until we got close.

Posted by: Erika Johnston - Two Harbors
on: 2021-05-07 00:04:40

Hello! I'm a little confused about the leaves of this species. Elsewhere on the internet, such as https://species.wikimedia.org/wiki/Ranunculus_aquatilis and also in photographs, I see the plant seems to have 2 different leaf-like structures. Can someone please explain if this is true? Are both structures true leaves? The leaf like structure that is not heavily dissected reminds me more of other Ranunculus species I've seen. Thank you! :)

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-05-07 08:33:00

Erika, the species that has both finely dissected and non-dissected leaves is var. aquatilis, which is present in western North America; var. dissectus, found throughout most of North America, has only finely dissected leaves.

Posted by: Erika Johnston - Two Harbors
on: 2021-05-07 22:09:59

Thank you!! That was very helpful! :D

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