Early Buttercup (Prairie Buttercup)

Photo of early buttercup plant with flower
Scientific Name
Ranunculus fascicularis
Ranunculaceae (crowfoots, buttercups)

Early buttercup (or prairie buttercup) has show flowers that are about ¾ inch wide. It is a relatively small plant. Flowers have 5 yellow petals that are often recurved (bent backwards), about twice as long as the sepals; stamens many. Blooms March–May. Leaves are longer than broad, mostly basal, compound, 3- to 5-divided, with linear to oblong, rounded segments that may be deeply lobed, and sometimes with a few teeth. Stems and leaves often have hairs.

Similar species: There are nearly 20 species of Ranunculus in Missouri.


Height: 4–8 inches (when in flower; grows taller later).

Where To Find
image of Early Buttercup Prairie Buttercup distributiom map

Nearly statewide; uncommon in our northwestern counties; absent from the southeastern lowlands.

Occurs in dry or moist soils in open woods of uplands, rocky glades, and prairies; also near streams and in moist bottomlands.

This species can be cultivated in rock gardens, but be sure to get your seeds or plants from ethical nurseries.

Numerous types of bees, butterflies, and other insects gather nectar from these flowers, and several types of birds and mammals eat the seeds.

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Similar Species
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!