Ranunculus hispidus (Bristly Buttercup)

Ranunculus hispidus (Bristly Buttercup) on 5-17-18, #443-75.

Bristly Buttercup, Hispid Crowfoot, Hairy Buttercup, Marsh Buttercup

Ranunculus hispidus

ra-NUN-ku-lus  HISS-pih-dus

Synonyms of Ranunculus hispidus (2) (Updated on 1-11-23 from Plants of the World Online): Ranunculus hispidus var. typicus L.D.Benson, Ranunculus repens var. hispidus (Michx.) Chapm.
Synonyms of Ranunculus hispidus var. caricetorum (3) (Updated on 1-11-23): Ranunculus caricetorum Greene, Ranunculus septentrionalis var. caricetorum (Greene) Fernald, Ranunculus siciformis Mack. & Bush
Synonyms of Ranunculus hispidus var. hispidus (10) (Updated on 1-11-23): Ranunculus carolinianus Torr. & A.Gray, Ranunculus hispidus var. eurylobus L.D.Benson, Ranunculus hispidus var. falsus Fernald, Ranunculus hispidus var. greenmanii L.D.Benson, Ranunculus hispidus var. marylandicus (Poir.) L.D.Benson, Ranunculus hispidus var. oreganus A.Gray, Ranunculus marylandicus Poir., Ranunculus octopetalus Greene, Ranunculus repens var. marylandicus (Poir.) Torr. & A.Gray, Ranunculus septentrionalis var. marylandicus (Poir.) Chapm.

Ranunculus hispidus Michx. is the accepted scientific name for this species of Ranunculus. It was named and described as such by André Michaux in Flore Boreali-Americana in 1803.

Accepted Infraspecific Names (2) (Updated on 5-22-22): Ranunculus hispidus var. caricetorum (Greene) T.Duncan, *Ranunculus hispidus var. hispidus (autonym). *When an infraspecific taxon is named, an autonym (“type-specimen”) is automatically generated whose description is closest to the (original) species. They all have their own synonyms… Ranunculus hispidus var. nitidus is now a synonym of Ranunculus carolinianus 

The genus, Ranunculus L., was described by Carl Linnaeus in the first volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.

As of 1-11-23 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online lists 1,691 species in the Ranunculus genus. It is a member of the plant family Ranunculaceae with 50 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.

Distribution map of Ranunculus hispidus from Plants of the World Online. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; http://www.plantsoftheworldonline.org/. Retrieved on December 16, 2021.

The above distribution map for Ranunculus hispidus is from Plants of the World Online and includes the species and subordinate taxon. Areas in green are where they are native. The map on the USDA Plants Database is different because it also shows Ranunculus hispidus var. nitidus which is now a synonym of Ranunculus carolinianus. You can find maps for the subordinate taxon by clicking on the links for both websites.

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. You can find maps for intraspecific taxon by typing their names in the search box.


Ranunculus hispidus (Bristly Buttercup) on 5-17-18, #443-76.

Ranunculus hispidus is a common species found on my farm and throughout Missouri and most of the eastern half of North America. Ranunculus species can be somewhat difficult to identify because they share similar features. For some, you have to look at their roots, fruit, and achenes (seeds). I am pretty sure the photos on this page are of Ranunculus hispidus. How sure am I? That is a secret… Just keep in mind that I may not be correct and I am very open-minded. 

Many Ranunculus species prefer fairly moist soil, but this one also tolerates dryer soil. Here, there are colonies in part shade to full sun. In other areas, they can be found in wooded areas, along stream banks, pond margins (and where they drain), low areas in pastures, and hayfields… They do seem to prefer rich, loamy soil. Some websites say this species is rarely found in damp habitats while others say it is a preference. Hmmm…

Ranunculus species are toxic to both humans and livestock. Luckily, cattle tend to avoid them because of the bitter taste. The problem is the species has a tendency to invade overgrazed pastures and cattle may eat them as a last resort. The level of toxicity depends on the species and can be boiled and eaten… Personally, I am not going to try them.

Ranunculus hispidus (Bristly Buttercup) on 4-24-22, #873-24.

Ranunculus hispidus can grow to around 20” tall and has a tendency to sprawl somewhat. The stems grow from the base and grow roots from lower nodes. The stems “can be” densely or sparsely covered with spreading and/or appressed hairs (pubescent). Appressed hairs kind of lay flat along the stems. The stems can also either be green or reddish-tinted. 

Ranunculus hispidus (Bristly Buttercup) on 4-27-20, #692-48.

The leaves grow in an alternate pattern along the stems. Both basal (lower) and primary leaves are trifoliate (having three leaflets) and are said to be ovate, broadly-ovate, to nearly heart-shaped in outline. Basal and primary leaves have fairly long petioles while those of the upper leaves are shorter or sessile (no petioles). The leaflets also have three lobes (ternate), although the lowest leaves (the earliest) may just be deeply lobed. The center leaflet has a fairly short petiolule (leaf stem) while the two on the side are usually sessile (no petiole) or they have very short petiolules. The margins usually have rounded teeth (irregularly dentate). The petioles and upper surface of the leaves (adaxial) are also pubescent (hairy) while the lower leaf (abaxial) surface is mostly hairy along the veins.

Ranunculus hispidus (Bristly Buttercup) on 4-27-20, #692-49.

The above photo shows the petioles which is the main leaf stem that grows from the plant’s stem. It goes all the way to the base of the center leaflet. The other two leaflets stems are called petiolules… These leaflets may also be sessile (having no petiolules), especially on the upper part of the plant.

Ranunculus hispidus (Bristly Buttercup) on 4-27-20, #692-46.

The flowers… Solitary yellow flowers grow from fairly long peduncles (flower stems). The flowers have five glossy yellow petals and are surrounded by 5 sepals that are usually reflexed. Flowers also include yellow styles, stamens, anthers, and yellow-green filaments. Flowers appear in March through June and sometimes longer. The center of the flower known as the receptacle or gynoecium contains the female parts of the flower (pistils) and is surrounded by the stamens (male parts). The receptacle becomes the fruit… 

Ranunculus hispidus (Bristly Buttercup) on 4-27-20, #692-47.

The above photo shows the reflexed sepals.

Ranunculus hispidus (Bristly Buttercup) on 4-24-22, #873-22.

The above photo must be of an older flower where most of the sepals have fallen off and some of the stamens have withered and are below the petals.

I need to get a close-up of the fruit… The leaves are very similar to Ranunculus sardous (Hairy Buttercup). In fact, what I had been calling R. hispidus in several locations are actually H. sardous. The fruit of H. hispidus have long “beaks” while those of the R. sardous are short and stubby. That’s how I figured it out. Now I have to go find the plants the 2022 photos were taken of and check out their fruit and take photos… It would be funny if these photos are actually of R. sardous… I didn’t think I had R. sardous but I was certainly mistaken.

I have enjoyed photographing and learning about the many wildflowers growing on the farm and in other areas. The 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 250 species of wildflowers (most have pages listed on the right side of the page). 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 few horticulturalists 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. 🙂

A FEW MORE PHOTOS OF Ranunculus hispidus… 

Ranunculus hispidus (Bristly Buttercup) on 5-17-18, #443-77.


Ranunculus hispidus (Bristly Buttercup) on 5-17-18, #443-78.


Ranunculus hispidus (Bristly Buttercup) on 4-27-20, #692-44.


Ranunculus hispidus (Bristly Buttercup) on 4-27-20, #692-45.


Ranunculus hispidus (Bristly Buttercup) on 4-24-22, #873-19.


Ranunculus hispidus (Bristly Buttercup) on 4-24-22, #873-20.


Ranunculus hispidus (Bristly Buttercup) on 4-24-22, #873-21.


Ranunculus hispidus (Bristly Buttercup) on 4-24-22, #873-23.

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