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Littleleaf Buttercup, Littleleaf Crowfoot - Ranunculus abortivus


Family: Ranunculaceae - Buttercup family Genus Common Name: Buttercup Native Status: NativeDicot Biennial Perennial Herb
Ranunculus abortivus - Littleleaf Buttercup, Littleleaf Crowfoot. I may not be putting too many Buttercup (genus Ranunculus) species here on USWildflowers.com. It's not that I don't run across them often; it's just that with the number of different species - the USDA lists 93 species in the United States - and with many species looking very similar to others in the genus, it takes a lot of effort and research to narrow it down to a specific species. This one, for example, I've been working on off and on for nearly a year. I originally thought it was the native Hooked Buttercup (Ranunculus recurvatus.) But then I noticed the achene beak on the plant I was researching was not nearly long enough to be Hooked Buttercup. My next choice was an introduced species, Smallflower Buttercup (Ranunculus parviflorus) which has a hooked beak on the achene, but much shorter than in R. recurvatus. However, R. parviflorus has a hispid (bristly-hairy) stem; the plant I was working on has a glabrous (hairless) stem. I finally settled on the native Buttercup Ranunculus abortivus - Littleleaf Buttercup. There may have been other, similar small-flowered Buttercups that I eliminated because they aren't found in northwest Georgia, so if you're trying to identify one outside that area, this might not be your species. But if you call it a Hooked Buttercup, who's going to argue with you?

Ranunculus abortivus is found in all but six states:
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

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Ranunculus abortivus

Distribution of Ranunculus abortivus in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 23 Oct 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Walker County, GA Date: 2012-March-03Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
Littleleaf Buttercup normally has 5 glossy yellow petals. This blossom appears to have 6, but the extra one might be one of the normally greenish sepals.
Ranunculus abortivus

Site: Walker County, GA Date: 2012-March-03Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The achenes of several Buttercups have hooked beaks. Most are relatively short, as shown here. Ranunculus abortivus is quite similar to Hooked Buttercup (R. recurvatus) except the beak in Hooked Buttercup is much longer, giving the head a very bristly appearance.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Ranunculus abortivus

Site: Walker County, GA Date: 2012-March-03Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Ranunculus abortivus has few stem leaves, and small flowers with small yellow petals. The plant has a smooth, branching stem, with a few bracts. There are several varieties of R. abortivus, with one of the differences in the varieties being the shape of the leafy bracts on the stems. This one is of the variety with deeply divided lobes in the upper bracts.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Ranunculus abortivus

Site: Walker County, GA Date: 2012-March-03Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The rosette of basal leaves are typically crenate, but this one is unusually lobed for Ranunculus abortivus. R. parviflorus is much more likely to have basal leaves that are deeply lobed.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Ranunculus abortivus

Site: Walker County, GA Date: 2012-March-24Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
This is the more normal shape of the basal leaf on Littleleaf Buttercup. The basal rosette shows up in spring before the stem, and it can be easily confused with the leaves of a violet growing in your yard.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Ranunculus abortivus

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer