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Ranunculus abortivus (Littleleaf buttercup)
Smith, R.W.

Ranunculus abortivus

Ranunculus abortivus L.

Littleleaf Buttercup, Kidney-leaf Buttercup, Early Wood Buttercup

Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Synonym(s): Ranunculus abortivus ssp. acrolasius, Ranunculus abortivus var. acrolasius, Ranunculus abortivus var. eucyclus, Ranunculus abortivus var. indivisus, Ranunculus abortivus var. typicus


USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N), SPM (N)

An erect to spreading biennial or short-lived perennial, 6-24 in. tall. Basal leaves are kidney-shaped; stem leaves are once- or twice-parted. Small flowers with drooping, yellow petals are numerous.

With its small petals, this species does not look much like a buttercup, but its many separate stamens and pistils are typical of the genus. The species name refers to the reduced petals. At least 10 similarly small-flowered species occur in eastern North America.


From the Image Gallery

5 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Biennial
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Achene
Size Notes: Up to about 2 feet tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul


USA: AK , AL , AR , CO , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
Canada: NB , NS , ON , PE
Native Distribution: Lab. to AK, s. to FL, TX, CO & n.e. WA
Native Habitat: Rich, moist woods; alluvial areas

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Moist, rich soils.
Conditions Comments: The sap of this plant may cause a dermatitis if it come in contact with susceptible people.


Use Wildlife: Ground-foraging birds and small mammals eat the seeds.
Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: All parts. Low toxicity if eaten. Minor skin irritation lasting minutes if touched. Symptoms include burning of the mouth, abdominal pain, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. Skin redness, burning sensation, and blisters following contact with cell sap. Toxic Principle: Protoanemonin, released from the glycoside ranunculin.(Poisonous Plants of N.C.)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Ranunculus abortivus in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Ranunculus abortivus in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Ranunculus abortivus


Record Modified: 2023-02-23
Research By: TWC Staff

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