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Wisconsin Plant of the Week

Ranunculus flabellaris Raf.

Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Common Name:

yellow water crowfoot


Yellow water crowfoot is a native aquatic herb found in quiet water in swamp forests, woodland pools, shallow or deep marshes with water depths to 2 m.

It blooms from May to June.  Like most buttercups, the flowers have 5 petals with a shiny surface and many stamens. The flowers are 2-3 cm across on long thick stalks.  The seeds, achenes about 2 mm, have a conspicuous corky keel.

Leaves are alternate and highly variable.  Submersed leaves are finely dissected with flattened segments 1-2 mm wide (upper left corner of bottom photo); plants stranded on damp shores have leaves less finely dissected; emerged leaves, when present, are 3-lobed.

The leaf segments of Yellow water crowfoot are flat in section, while those of the similar White water crowfoot (R. longirostris) are round. This distinguishes sterile specimens.

  • Origin of the Name: Ranunculus, L. diminutive of rana, little frog, refers to the amphibious habitat; flabellaris:  L. flabellum, a fan, refers to the fan-shaped leaves.
  • Range:  ME to B.C., south to LA
  • WI Range:  Statewide except the Driftless Area
  • Common associates: Arrowhead, bluejoint grass, bladderwort, floating-leaved pondweed
  • Wetland Indicator Status: OBL
  • Coefficient of Conservatism: C = 7 (S&W), C = 10 (MI)
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