Creeping Buttercup

Ranunculus repens L.

Family: - Ranunculaceae.


Ranunculus is Latin for tadpole from the Latin rana meaning frog and may refer to the damp habitats preferred by many species in this genus.

Repens is from the Latin repe meaning to creep referring to the creeping habit of stems.

Creeping Buttercup because it has creeping stems and butter yellow, cupped flowers.


A perennial herb with creeping, stoloniferous stems and erect flower stems with yellow flowers with overlapping petals. The leaves are usually trifoliate and lobed.



Two. 8 to 12 mm long overall with a short petiole, and is hairless. The seedling has a very short hypocotyl and no epicotyl.

First Leaves:

The leaves arise singly, the first being 12 to 16 mm long overall with a petiole about 5 mm long. The leaves are hairy. The leaves are initially lobed but, as the plant grows, they become trifoliate or pinnate and much divided.


Alternate. Develops as a loose rosette.

Stipules - None.

Petiole - 50-180 mm long with papery, clasping, sheathing bases.

Blade - Egg to wedge shaped in outline, 15-80 mm long, divided in sets of 3 segments with the central segment on a obvious stalk to being trifoliate. Each segment usually has 3, toothed lobes or is deeply divided. Hairy.

Stem leaves - Have long petioles and are 100 to 200 mm long. They have hairs on the upper and lower surface and on the petiole, and usually have the veins distinctly pale in colour and have pale areas on the leaf surface. The lobes are much divided. Towards the top of the flowering stems the leaves are reduced in size and have fewer lobes.


Much branched, low lying, root at the nodes, hollow, circular in cross section, and hairy. Stoloniferous to several metres long.

Flower stem - Erect, reach a height of some 600 mm, while the spreading stems may extend over several metres and cover a considerable area.

Flower head:

The flowers are axillary carried on long stems.


Yellow, 20 to 30 mm in diameter.

Ovary - One ovule per carpel. Short style. Receptacle, oblong and hairy.

Sepals - 5, overlapping, spreading. Hairy. Fall off early.

Petals - 5, yellow, egg shaped, 10-25 mm long, overlapping. Nectar pit at the base.

Stamens -

Anthers -


Achene, smooth, flattened, egg shaped, 3 mm long. Long curved, almost erect beak.


Enclosed in fruit(achene). Beaked achene.


Taproot and adventitious roots.

Key Characters:

Villous, perennial, land plants

Stolons that are long and spreading.

Leaves alternate or radical, trifoliate or pinnate with broad lobes and pale veins.

Stems leafy.

Flowers regular, not spurred

Petals yellow and overlapping.

Achenes smooth in a globular head.

Style of achene becoming a short beak.


Life cycle:

Perennial. Germination occurs in the Autumn.



By seed and creeping stolons.

Flowering times:

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:




Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spread by seed and creeping stolons.

Origin and History:


Introduced as a garden plant.



Found in all parts of Tasmania but is somewhat less common in the Midlands.


Wet areas. Coastal areas.


Temperate. Mediterranean.


Damp soils.

Plant Associations:





It is a species of waste areas and is found particularly along creeks and in roadside ditches. It is not uncommon in weak, poorly drained, pastures. It is restricted to damp situations. It can reduce pasture productivity, and may impede water flow in drains.


Not recorded as toxic in the field.



Management and Control:


Eradication strategies:

Herbicide resistance:

Biological Control:

Related plants:

Australian Buttercup (Ranunculus lappaceus) is very similar but does not have long stolons or runners spreading from the base. The beaks of the achenes are less curved and almost erect. The petals don't overlap.

Celery Buttercup (Ranunculus sceleratus)

Corn Buttercup (Ranunculus arvensis)

Large Annual Buttercup (Ranunculus trilobus)

Pale Hairy Buttercup (Ranunculus sardous)

River Buttercup (Ranunculus inundatus)

Sharp Buttercup (Ranunculus muricatus)

Small flowered Buttercup (Ranunculus parviflorus)

Small flowered Buttercup (Ranunculus pumilio)

Small flowered Buttercup (Ranunculus sessiliflorus)

Small River Buttercup (Ranunculus amphitrichus)

Smooth Buttercup (Ranunculus pentandrus)

Snakes tongue Buttercup (Ranunculus ophioglossifolius)

Swamp Buttercup (Ranunculus undosus)

Plants of similar appearance:

Creeping Buttercup is distinguished from other Buttercups by its spreading perennial stems, by the trifoliate or pinnate leaf, and by the distinct pale colour of the veins.


Auld, B.A. and Medd R.W. (1992). Weeds. An illustrated botanical guide to the weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P212. Photo.

Black, J.M. (1965). Flora of South Australia. (Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia). P763.

Hyde-Wyatt, B.H. and Morris, D.I. (1975). Tasmanian weed handbook. (Tasmanian Department of Agriculture, Hobart, Tasmania). P94-95. Diagrams.

Lamp, C. and Collet, F. (1990). A Field Guide to Weeds in Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne).

Lazarides, M. and Hince, B. (1993). CSIRO handbook of economic plants of Australia. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #1043.10.


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