Ranunculus lapponicus (Lapland Buttercup)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:part shade, shade; watery hollows in forested spagnum bogs, cedar or alder swamps, boreal forest
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:3 to 4 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 Flower shape: 6-petals

[photo of flower] Solitary yellow flower on a slender naked stem rising out of the water or moss. Flowers are ¼ to ½ inch across with 5 to 8 (frequently 6), narrow, lance-elliptic petals and 3 broad green sepals as long as or shorter than the petals, with a scattering of yellow stamens around the green styles in the center.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are basal, round to oval in outline, emerging on a slender stalk and cleft into 3 rounded segments that may have one or more additional shallow lobes. The blade is typically wider than long, ½ to 1 inch long and 2/3 to 1 2/3 inch wide, the surfaces waxy smooth and the edges with wide, rounded teeth or notches. The stem is prostrate along the ground or within the muck or moss layer, rooting at the nodes and creating large colonies.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] The center expands into a hemispheric seed head up to 3/8 inch across. The seeds are smooth, the beak curved with a hook at the tip.


Lapland Buttercup, sometimes known as Coptidium lapponicum, is a cold hardy circumpolar species native up into the high arctic, whose southern range boundary barely pushes onto northern portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Maine, all of which list it as rare. Its aversion to heat keeps it hidden away in rich forested northern swamps that are continuously serviced by cold groundwater. According to the DNR, it was listed as a Special Concern species in Minnesota in 1984; it is also currently listed as Endangered in Wisconsin. Its most immediate threat would be changes in local hydrology that would disrupt its cold water supply. Long term, a progressive shift towards warmer temperatures due to climate change will inevitably push its southern range boundary further into Canada. At first glance, the leaves may resemble those of Goldthread (Coptis trifolia), which has 3 separate leaflets rather than a single leaf lobed in 3 parts.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Cook County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook and Lake counties.


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

Posted by: Gary - Cook
on: 2019-02-26 16:57:03

In a mixed species conifer swamp (I do wish people would stop calling these bogs as they are not) near Pancore Lake. The plants were growing on sphagnum hummocks and in the hollows between them. I've also seen it over the years in similar habitats in Lake and St. Louis counties.

Posted by: Jessy Carlson - Hovland
on: 2021-06-06 09:35:31

In the autumn, I moved onto 20 acres of young forest (re growing after a 40-50 year old clear-cut) north of and inland from Grand Marais. The soil is extremely clay-ey, so I was very curious to see what plants I?d discover in the spring. I thought I was seeing gold thread, but the leaves were not thick and waxy, and the roots were not gold. Must be Coptidium lapponicum. I?m surprised to find this on clay soils, although everything else jives: it?s a very wet forest, lots balsam, spruce, aspen, birch, black ash, and mosses.

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