A slender, branched perennial herb. Flowers with 4–8 petals, variable in size, sepals very short, recurved, many stamens and small carpels (containing usually 1 seed each). Blooms March–May. Basal leaves on long stems, kidney-shaped or round, with margins entired, scalloped, or lobed. Stem leaves either trifoliate (compound with 3 leaflets) or in 3 straplike segments.
Similar species: There are 19 Ranunculus species recorded for Missouri. Because the leaves and stems can vary a great deal even within a single species, one usually needs to examine flowers and fruits in order to identify them. Noting their habitat is helpful, too.