Early Buttercup (Prairie Buttercup)

Ranunculus fascicularis


Photo of early buttercup plant with flower
Missouri has nearly 20 species in genus Ranunculus. Identify early buttercup by its early blooming time, distinctively shaped, usually hairy leaves, and preference for open woods, glades, or prairies.

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).

Habitat and conservation

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

image of Early Buttercup Prairie Buttercup distributiom map
Distribution in Missouri

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

Human connections

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

Ecosystem connections

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