Ontario Weeds: Tall buttercup

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Excerpt from Publication 505, Ontario Weeds, Order this publication

Table of Contents

  1. Name
  2. Other Names
  3. Family
  4. General Description
  5. Stems and Roots
  6. Flowers and Fruit
  7. Habitat
  8. Similar Species
  9. Caution
  10. Related Links

Name: Tall buttercup, Ranunculus acris L.,

Other Names: renoncule âcre, Field buttercup, Meadow buttercup, Tall crowfoot, Tall field buttercup, bouton-d'or

Family: Buttercup Family (Ranunculaceae)

General Description: Perennial, reproducing only by seed.

Photos and Pictures

Creeping buttercup (left); Tall buttercup (right).

Creeping buttercup (left); Tall buttercup (right).

Tall buttercup. A. Base of plant. B. Lower leaf. C. Flowering branch.
Tall buttercup.
A. Base of plant. B. Lower leaf. C. Flowering branch.

Tall buttercup

Tall buttercup

Stems & Roots: Stems 1 or several from a thick rootstalk with numerous, spreading, coarse, fibrous roots, erect, 30-100cm (12-40in.) high, branched in the upper part, hairy throughout; leaves basal and alternate (1 per node) on the stem, softly hairy, very deeply lobed and toothed; basal and lower leaves long-stalked, the blade deeply divided into 5 main lobes palmately arranged (like fingers from the palm of the hand), each of the 5 lobes irregularly jagged or coarsely toothed; middle leaves with similar shape but nearly stalkless; upper leaves progressively smaller with fewer and smoother lobes; the base of each leafstalk flattened and partly surrounding the stem at each node.

Flowers & Fruit: Flowers bright yellow, about 2-3cm (4/5-1¼in.) in diameter, grouped on long stalks in a much-branched inflorescence; sepals 5, green and small; petals 5; stamens numerous around the cluster of tiny pistils; after the petals fall, the cluster of seeds is nearly spherical with each seed about 3mm (1/8in.) long, flattened, egg-shaped in outline with a short hooked tip. Flowering and setting seed from late May throughout the summer and fall.

Habitat: Tall buttercup is one of the most common weeds of pastures, meadows, and roadsides throughout Ontario. It can grow in a wide variety of habitats from low wet meadows, to rich woods, to the coarse soils of gravel pits and railroad cinders. There are many species of native and introduced buttercups, but only Tall buttercup is of wide importance as a weed.

Similar Species: It is distinguished by its erect habit, the lower and middle leaves being similar in appearance, and the leaf blades deeply lobed but not completely divided into sections with distinct stalks.

Caution: The Buttercups have a bitter, acrid juice which causes severe pain and inflammation when grazed by livestock. They are normally avoided, but when other feed becomes scarce they may be grazed with serious consequences.

Related Links

... on general Weed topics
... on weed identification, order OMAFRA Publication 505: Ontario Weeds
... on weed control, order OMAFRA Publication 75: Guide To Weed Control

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