Harvey’s Buttercup

Photo of Harvey's buttercup plant with flowers
Scientific Name
Ranunculus harveyi
Ranunculaceae (buttercups, crowfoots)

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 lobed, scalloped, or smooth (no indentations). 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.


Height: to about 1 foot, sometimes taller.

Where To Find
image of Harvey’s Buttercup distribution map

South and east-central Missouri.

Grows in acid soils on wooded slopes, and in rocky, open, dry areas.

The species name, harveyi, honors Francis Leroy Harvey (1850-1900), a professor of biology and geology at the University of Arkansas who founded that school’s natural history museum in Fayetteville by offering cash rewards to students for collections of plant, animal, and mineral specimens.

Harvey’s buttercup is one of 12 species of Ranunculus native to Missouri. It ranges from Indiana to Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Alabama. In Indiana, this species is endangered, apparently occurring in only one county in that state.

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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!