Buttercups (Ranunculus species)Identification Guide

Buttercups / All Year round / Toxic

There are many types of Buttercups, three species are very common in the UK they can all be thought of as the same and they are all toxic.

Common Names

Buttercups, Creeping crazy, Devil’s guts, Lantern leaves, and Tangle-grass.

Botanical Name

Ranunculus species

Scientific Classification

Kingdom – Plantae

Order – Ranunculales

Family – Ranunculaceae

Physical Characteristics for Buttercups


The leaves are roughly triangular in shape, they have 3-5 lobes and are hairy and pinnate.

Dmitry Makeev, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


The flowers are bright yellow, have 5 petals and have a cluster of bright yellow stamens.

Agnes Monkelbaan, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


The fruit are green and spiny, they look a little like a mini horse chestnut seed pod.

Harry Rose from South West Rocks, Australia, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Virtually anywhere, buttercups are very wide spread and can be found in meadows, woodlands and on disturbed ground.

Known Hazards

All parts of the plant are poisonous when raw, symptoms of poisoning include bloody diarrhoea, excessive salivation, colic, and severe blistering of the mouth and gastrointestinal tract.

They have been known to cause contact dermatitis when handled so care should be taken.

Could be Confused with…

Most people are familiar with Buttercups so misidentification is rare.

Notes on Herbal Uses

They were traditionally used dried to treat fevers and rheumatism.

Extra notes from the Foragers

The origin of the name comes from a belief that it gave butter its golden hue. In reality, Buttercups are poisonous to cattle and are often left uneaten.

The 3 most common species found in the UK are The Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens), The Meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris) and the Bulbous buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus) all are toxic and should be avoided.





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