Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup, Kidneyleaf Crowfoot, ETC.)

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 3-21-20, #678-35.

Small-Flowered Buttercup, Littleleaf Buttercup, Kidneyleaf Crowfoot, Kidneyleaf Buttercup, Small-Flowered Crowfoot

Ranunculus abortivus

ra-NUN-ku-lus  a-bor-TEE-vus

Synonyms of Ranunculus abortivus (13) (Updated from Plants of the World Online on 5-8-22): Ranunculus abortivus var. acrolasius Fernald, Ranunculus abortivus f. coptidifolius Fernald, Ranunculus abortivus var. eucyclus Fernald, Ranunculus abortivus f. giganteus F.C.Gates, Ranunculus abortivus var. indivisus Fernald, Ranunculus abortivus var. nitidus (Walter) DC., Ranunculus abortivus f. pratensis G.Lawson, Ranunculus abortivus f. sylvaticus G.Lawson, Ranunculus abortivus var. typicus Fernald, Ranunculus holmii Greene, Ranunculus michiganensis Farw., Ranunculus nitidus Walter, Ranunculus ruderalis Greene

Ranunculus abortivus L. is the accepted scientific name for this species of Buttercup. The genus and species were named and described as such by Carl von Linnaeus in the first volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.

As of 5-8-22 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online lists a whopping 1,674 species in the Ranunculus genus. The genus is a member of the plant family Ranunculaceae with a total of 50 genera. Those numbers are likely to change as updates are made on POWO.

Distribution map of Ranunculus abortivus from Plants of the World Online. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; http://www.plantsoftheworldonline.org/. Retrieved on April3, 2020.

The above distribution map for Ranunculus abortivus is from Plants of the World Online. The map on the USDA Plants Database for the United States and Canada is similar.

The map on iNaturalist shows where members have made observations. Anyone can join and it is a great website to confirm and share your observations. The maps on iNaturalist are continually updated as members post new observations.


Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 3-21-20, #678-36.

There are several species of Ranunculus here on the farm in west-central Missouri. Some of the species are VERY difficult to tell apart but Ranunculus abortivus is somewhat easier due to its small flowers and kidney-shaped basal leaves.

One of the early spring wildflowers on the farm is Ranunculus abortivus. The species goes by several common names including Small-Flowered Buttercup, Littleleaf Buttercup, Kidneyleaf Buttercup, Kidneyleaf Crowfoot, and Small-Flowered Crowfoot. I am sure there are others.

The Ranunculus abortivus produces many glabrous (not hairy) stems from the base of the plant. Some of the stems grow upright while some sprawl somewhat.

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 3-21-20, #678-37.

Ranunculus abortivus is quite common throughout Missouri and most of North America. Like many Ranunculus species, they have an odd fibrous root system, like a clump of roots. Ranunculus abortivus prefers damp soil and can be found in low areas, along pond banks, ditches, and swampy areas. I have also found them in shady areas under trees in the spring where it stays damp. They aren’t particularly showy plants because of their small flowers.

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 3-21-20, #678-38.

The basal leaves are kind of round or kidney-shaped (reniform) and have long petioles (stem between the base of the leaves and the stem of the plant) and have scalloped edges. The leaves and petioles are glabrous (not hairy).

The lower leaves on the stem (cauline) have shorter petioles and are deeply divided into three lobes with scalloped margins. The upper cauline leaves have either very short petioles or are sessile (no petioles). The flowering stems emerge from the adaxial of the upper cauline leaves.

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 3-21-20, #678-39.

The above photo shows how long the petioles of the basal leaves are. These leaves are not the same as the lower leaves on the stem.

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 4-4-20, #683-36.

I photographed this small colony next to the elm trees behind the chicken house. As you can see, it has a multitude of flowering stems.

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 4-4-20, #683-37.

Each stem terminates with 1-3 flowers. The small flowers consist of 5 yellow petals, 5 green sepals, green carpels, and 20 or more stamens emerging from the base of the pistols. The anthers and filaments are bright yellow.

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 4-23-20, #690-79.

A multitude of flowers for sure!

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 4-23-20, #690-80.

I always take a lot of photos because you never know when some are too blurry. If they aren’t blurry, they go on the plant’s page even though I may not have enough words without repeating myself. 🙂

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 4-23-20, #690-81.

The flowers are so small it is very hard to get good close-ups. I don’t know how many photos I took trying, but there were A LOT… Practice makes perfect and sometimes it seems to take several years to get a perfect shot. Most of what you see in the above photo are the fruit and it was only April 23!

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 4-23-20, #690-82.

Well, what can I say? A bud, a flower, and fruit…

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 4-23-20, #690-83.

The common names Kidneyleaf Crowfoot and Small-Flowered Crowfoot come from the upper leaves.

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 4-23-20, #690-84.

A close-up of where a flowering branch is emerging from the adaxial of the upper leaves.

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 4-23-20, #690-85.

As you can see, the leaves and stems are glabrous (hairless)…

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 4-23-20, #690-86.


Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 4-23-20, #690-87.

Ummm… the leaf on the right has hair!

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 4-23-20, #690-88.

The above photo is somewhat suspicious and very fuzzy… Ummm… Ranunculus abortivus isn’t supposed to have hair… SO, what plant did I take this photo of anyway? WELL, I  do know all the photos from 4-23-20 were taken of the same colony and all within a few minutes. A similar species, Ranunculus micranthus, is VERY HAIRY. That is the problem of updating and adding photos and descriptions over the winter. I can’t go check… I am fairly certain (laughing) the photos on this page are Ranunculus abortivus. How certain is a secret. 🙂

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 4-10-22, #866-25.

I found the above Ranunculus abortivus on April 10 in 2022 growing along a fence. The plant was fairly small and growing among Lamium purpureum (Red Deadnettle), Chaerophyllum procumbens (Spreading Chervil), and Stellaria media (Common Chickweed).

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 4-10-22, #866-26.

Of course, it was easily recognized as a Ranunculus abortivus by its strangely interesting small flowers.

Ranunculus abortivus (Small-Flowered Buttercup) on 4-10-22, #866-27.

Since some Ranunculus species are difficult to identify, I am always glad to find one that is easy.

Oh, yeah… I read where the “receptacle” of Ranunculus abortivus is pubescent (hairy) and the receptacle on R. micranthus is hairless… To find this, I need to remove the flowers carpels, sepals, and petals. Also, the achenes (seed) of R. abortivus have a shiny surface while those of R. micranthus are dull. Hmmm… I read that on Illinois Wildflowers.

The Ranunculus abortivus is normally found in part shade in moist, fairly fertile loamy soil. They can also grow around ponds and areas where the soil has more clay.

I have enjoyed photographing and learning about the many wildflowers growing on the farm and other areas. My farm is in Windsor, Missouri in Pettis County (Henry County is across the street and Benton and Johnson aren’t far away). I have grown over 500 different plants and identified over 200 species of wildflowers (most have pages listed on the right side of the blog). I am not an expert, botanist, or horticulturalist. I just like growing, photographing, and writing about my experience. I rely on several websites for ID and a horticulturalist I contact if I cannot figure them out. Wildflowers can be somewhat variable from location to location, so sometimes it gets a bit confusing. If you see I have made an error, please let me know so I can correct what I have written.

I hope you found this page useful and be sure to check the links below for more information. They were written by experts and provide much more information. Some sites may not be up-to-date but they are always a work in progress. If you can, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Like” below and leave a comment. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. You can also send an email to me at thebelmontrooster@yahoo.com. I would enjoy hearing from you especially if you notice something is a bit whacky.


NOTE: The data (figures, maps, accepted names, etc.) may not match on these websites. It depends on when and how they make updates and when their sources make updates. Some websites have hundreds and even many thousands of species to keep up with. Accepted scientific names change periodically and it can be hard to keep with as well. Some of the links may use a name that is a synonym on other sites. In my opinion, Plants of the World Online by Kew is the most reliable and up-to-date plant database and they make updates on a regular basis. I make updates “at least” once a year and when I write new pages or add new photos but I do get behind. We are all a work in progress. 🙂


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