Ranunculus flabellaris (Yellow Water Buttercup)

Plant Info
Also known as: Large Yellow Water Crowfoot
Family:Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; shallow, calm water, muddy ditches
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:6 to 18 inches above water
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] One to a few flowers on a stout, usually naked stem rising out of the water. Flowers are ½ to 1 inch across with 5 (occasionally more) shiny yellow petals, numerous orange to yellow stamens around a green center, and 5 spreading yellowish green sepals that are shorter than the petals.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: palmate Leaf type: simple

[photo of typical leaves] Most of the plant is submerged, except when stranded in mud. Leaves are greatly variable but mostly semi-circular to kidney shaped in outline, ½ to 4 inches long and wide, simple, divided into many narrow segments and can appear to be compound.

[photo of pinnate leaf] Submerged leaves are more finely divided than those above the surface of the water, most palmately lobed but some pinnately lobed. Stems are stout but weak, smooth and hollow.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

The center expands to an oval seed head about 1/3 inch long. Seeds are smooth and have a straight beak.


A similar aquatic species is Small Yellow Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus gmelinii), which has smaller flowers (less than ½ inch), and smaller leaves that are typically wider than long and less finely divided.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken along a backwater of the Mississippi River in Aitkin County, in Kittson County, and in North Dakota.


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

Posted by: Andy - Wright County
on: 2016-05-12 12:59:52

I trimmed a patch of this that was growing in a wet spot and found out the hard way that the sap is apparently caustic, as I have burns and blisters on unprotected skin.

Posted by: Kimberly - Pipestone County
on: 2016-06-07 16:24:42

Found about a dozen plants on a mud flat along Willow Creek.

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