Ranunculus sceleratus (Cursed Crowfoot)

Plant Info
Also known as: Celery-leaf Buttercup, Cursed Buttercup
Family:Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life cycle:annual, short-lived perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; along shores, wet meadows, wet ditches, shallow water
Bloom season:May - September
Plant height:6 to 24 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
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 at the end of branching stems and arising from leaf axils in the upper part of the plant. Individual flowers are ¼ to 1/3 inch across, with 5 (sometimes 3 or 4) shiny yellow petals, a ring of yellow stamens around a green center, and 5 (sometimes 3 or 4) yellow-green sepals. The sepals spread back away from the flower with maturity and are about as long as the petals, but may be a bit longer or shorter. 

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

[photo of leaves] There are both basal leaves and alternate stem leaves. Basal leaves are up to 3 inches long and wide, on long stalks and shallowly lobed in 3 to 5 main parts. Stem leaves are more deeply lobed with the main lobes further divided, generally kidney-shaped in outline, becoming smaller on shorter stalks and narrower lobes as they ascend the stem; those near the flowers are stalkless. Stems are hollow. The plant is hairless, or nearly so.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

The flower center expands to an elliptic or cylindrical seed head up to ½ inch long. Seeds have a minute beak that is usually straight; surfaces are smooth or finely wrinkled depending on variety,


There are several buttercup species with small yellow flowers. The habitat, leaf shape, and overall plant size are usually the easiest ways to distinguish them. Cursed Crowfoot is fairly common and can be weedy. The stem oozes a sap that may cause blisters, which is probably where the “cursed” name originates. There are 2 varieties in North America, both found in Minnesota: var. multifidus is most common and has smooth seeds, var. sceleratus has seeds with a finely wrinkled surface.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.


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

Posted by: Seth - East Bethel
on: 2011-08-08 16:08:00

I have spotted several plants of Cursed Buttercup coming back on their own amongst a stream bank naturalization project in my back yard. to the best of my knowledge, they were self-seeding and did not come with any seed mixes I purchased and definitely did not plant any plugs of this plant. Glad to see that it is native though so I can leave it be.

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