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.