Ranunculus fascicularis (Early Buttercup)

Plant Info
Also known as: Tufted Buttercup
Family:Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry prairies, open woods
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:4 to 12 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
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] Usually a single flower, occasionally more, at the end of a hairy stem. Flowers are ½ to 1 inch across with (usually) 5 shiny yellow petals rounded at the tip and streaked with green at the base. Petals are typically longer than wide but the width can vary greatly, perhaps with age.

[photo of hairy sepals] Behind the petals are 5 yellowish-green sepals, shorter than the petals, with pointed tips and also covered in spreading to appressed hairs. Numerous yellow stamens surround the yellowish center that turns green with maturity. A plant has 1 to several flowers.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: compound Leaf type: lobed

[photo of leaves] Leaves are mostly basal, mostly compound in groups of 3 or 5, on stalks up to 4 inches long. Leaflets are up to 1 inch long, mostly lobed in 3 to 5 parts, with lobes often further divided or notched, and blunt or rounded tips, sometimes with a tiny sharp point. Leaf surfaces are variously hairy, sometimes smooth.

[photo of leaf hairs] Leaf stalks and flowering stems are variously covered in spreading to appressed hairs but may become smooth with age. The few alternate leaves on the flowering stems are mostly lobed in 3 narrow parts.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

The flower center expands to a round to oval seed head about 1/3 inch long. Seeds are smooth with a persistent beak.


The common name Early Buttercup is appropriate, as it is probably the first yellow buttercup to bloom in spring. It is typically found growing in scattered colonies. Several references say the petals are narrow, but there was a wide disparity in the populations where these photos were taken. The early leaves might be mistaken for Ranunculus hispidus (Hispid Buttercup), but that is a much larger plant with larger leaves that are more sharply pointed, and likes moister habitats.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken at Vermillion Falls Park, Dakota County, and at a rock outcrop in Renville County.


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

Posted by: Mike R - Jordan
on: 2017-05-10 12:33:58

Identified a few scattered plants flowering 4/22 on the edge of an oak savanna and oak-hickory woodland over shallow sandstone in the Louisville Swamp Unit of the MN River Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

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