Ranunculus cymbalaria (Alkali Buttercup)

Plant Info
Also known as: Seaside Crowfoot
Family:Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; muddy, brackish areas, salt marshes, wet ditches
Bloom season:May - August
Plant height:2 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status: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] Flowers are about 1/3 inch across with 5 yellow petals, 5 yellowish sepals nearly as long as the petals and a ring of yellow stamens surrounding the green center. A plant has 1 to a few flowers branching off at the top of the stem and often has multiple flowering stems.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are basal, to 1 inch long and ¾ inch wide, with stalks up to about 3 inches long but shorter than the flowering stems. The shape is oval, kidney-shaped, or somewhat triangular with a rounded tip and irregular notches or teeth around the edges, and sometimes lobed in 3 parts. The leaf base may be squared or more heart-shaped. Leaves are hairless and stalks hairless or sparsely hairy. It often creates dense colonies from prostrate stems (stolons), rooting at the nodes.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of developing fruit] The flower center enongates to an oval to cylindric seed head up to ½ inch long. Seeds are smooth with a persistent beak.


Alkali Buttercup, sometimes known as Cyrtorhyncha cymbalaria ssp. alpina, is on the endangered or threatened list in several states, including Wisconsin, but not in Minnesota. It's easily distinguished from other buttercups with small yellow flowers by its short stature, the uniquely shaped basal leaves and its typically muddy and often saline habitat, though it may also be found on the rocky north shore of Lake Superior. At Fort Snelling State Park, a population is at the base of an I494 support pillar where storm water runoff collects.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Fort Snelling State Park, Hennepin County, and on the north shore of Lake Superior, Lake County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Polk County.


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

Posted by: Gary - Carlton County and St. Louis County
on: 2019-02-25 22:09:30

Two years ago at the edge of a parking lot in Cloquet. This was later destroyed when a new building went up. This past summer I saw another group of plants near Esko in a ditch along HWY 61. There used to be a huge colony in a ditch along the northbound lane of HWY 53 in Virginia. I think that may be gone now.

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