Ranunculus rhomboideus (Prairie Buttercup)

Plant Info
Also known as: Labrador Buttercup
Family:Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry sandy prairies, open woods
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:2 to 10 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 Flower shape: 7+petals

[photo of flowers] Single flower at the end of a hairy stalk that arises from a leaf axil. Flowers are 1/3 to ½ inch across, with 5 to 8 (usually 5) yellow petals, 5 yellowish sepals shorter than the petals, and numerous yellow stamens surrounding a bulbous green center. Most plants have from 3 to 12 flowers.

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

[photo of leaves] The stem leaves are deeply lobed into 3 to 5 narrow segments up to an inch long and are alternately attached, but may look whorled or palmately compound. There is no leaf stalk.

[photo of basal leaf] There are also a few basal leaves on slender stalks up to 2 inches long. Basal leaves are up to 1½ inches long, ¾ inch wide, have rounded teeth except near the base, and vary in shape from egg-shaped to oval to rhombic to lobed in 3 parts. Leaves and stems are typically covered with long soft hairs.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] The flower center expands to a round to oval seed head up to 3/8 inch in diameter. Seeds are smooth with a minute beak at the tip.


Prairie Buttercup may only be 2 or 3 inches tall when it starts flowering, but the stems can eventually elongate to about 10 inches. The flowers aren't very distinctive for a buttercup, but the leaves and (typically) open prairie habitat make this species easy to identify in the field. It is also among the first prairie plants to bloom in the spring.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Helen Allison SNA and in a private garden in Anoka County.


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

Posted by: Nancy - Bluestem Prairie SNA
on: 2012-04-17 09:55:53

I saw several in bloom on April 12, 2012 near the main path leading from the Bluestem Prairie SNA's parking area. Some were growing in the mowed path. They were the lone-bloomers from what I saw that day!

Posted by: Kristin - twin cities area
on: 2016-04-15 21:20:36

What an excellent photo-essay on this particular plant. I am certain I'll recognise it when I see it. Thanks!

Posted by: Randy - Sherburne County
on: 2016-05-02 10:23:01

My son has this plant growing in his "sandy lawn" that is part sand prairie/savanna just southeast of Princeton. It was in bloom on April 25th. I collected a specimen to run it through a key, not knowing which buttercups occur in Minnesota. Ranunculus rhomboideus is a threatened species here in Illinois.

Posted by: Tim Johnson - Uncas Dunes SNA in Sherburne County
on: 2018-05-24 14:57:48

5/24/18 - Blooming in open prairie areas of dunes.

Posted by: Wayne Goeken - ERSKINE
on: 2021-04-11 11:54:25

many prairie buttercup in bloom in several locations in Fertile Sand Hills on 4/10/21. Dry sand prairie/oak savanna habitat. Pasque flowers in peak bloom by 100s on site now also.

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