Creeping buttercup

Identification & Biology
Alias' : Creeping  crowfoot
Latin Name : Ranunculus  repens  L. 
Category : Terrestrial Plants
Description :
  • Low-growing perennial 
  • Leaves are slender and fibrous, often with white spots.  
  • Flowers are bright yellow and waxy, divided into five petals 
  • Creeping buttercup seeds are clustered in a globe to egg-shaped head 5-10 mm long and 5-8 mm wide.  


Creeping buttercup is known for its bright yellow flowers that bloom from May to August. It is a low-growing perennial that creeps along the ground. It reproduces by seed and vegetatively via long, branching stolons. Stolon growth starts in spring and peaks in late summer. Plants fragment easily and any human activities that disturb soils can spread buttercup. Seed densities can reach up to 12,000 seeds/m2 in pastures, and buried seeds can remain viable for up to five years.  

Creeping buttercup can sometimes be confused with the introduced tall buttercup (Ranunculus  acris), which grows more upright and has deeply incised leaves. Creeping buttercup can also be confused with the native Macoun’s  buttercup (Ranunculus  macounii), which has more hairy stems and smaller flowers (4-6 mm long and 3-5 mm wide). Creeping buttercup can be distinguished by its characteristic creeping stolons 

Look Alikes

Creeping buttercup was introduced from Eurasia and is now widely distributed throughout Canada and the US. In British Columbia, it is present in all of the province’s agricultural reporting regions except for the Omineca and Peace River districts. Creeping buttercup colonizes disturbed areas. It is usually found in heavy, wet clay soils but can also survive in sand or gravel when moisture is adequate. It often grows by streams, wetlands, ponds and in seepage areas. It can also dominate disturbed riparian areas, forest openings and along paths.  

Impact & Risks
  • Creeping buttercup contains an acrid juice that can result in pain, inflammation, skin irritation and abdominal distress in grazing animals upon consumption.  
  • It also depletes the soil of potassium and other nutrients, causing deficiencies in associated crops.  
  • This plant is most problematic on poorly drained pastures where it reduces carrying capacity.  
  • The competitive growth of buttercup can crowd out other native plants and dominate an area. 
Prevention & Mitigation

The most effective way to ensure that your lands do not become infested with creeping buttercup is by prevention. Here are some recommendations to prevent invasion on your property: 

  • Maintain your crops and natural lands in a healthy, vigorous condition to ensure a competitive plant community; competitive perennial grasses and forbs utilize water and nutrients that would otherwise be readily available to creeping buttercup. 
  • Regularly patrol your property for creeping buttercup plants and immediately control or remove infestations before seed set. Do not leave plants to compost as they may still produce viable seed. 
  • Improve drainage on pasture land.  
  • Clean vehicles and machinery of plant material and soil before leaving a creeping buttercup infestation.  
  • Do not move contaminated soil. 
  • Follow a well-designed grazing plan; excessive livestock grazing reduces competition and favours invasive plants. 
  • Immediately re-vegetate disturbed, bare soils with a suitable seed mixture that provides dense, early colonization to prevent weed invasion. 
Treatment & Disposal
  • Hand pulling or digging can be effective, but the entire plant must be removed to reduce the chance of the plant growing back via the root system. Digging is most effective from fall to spring while the soil is moist and roots will not break off as much. Cultivating or incomplete digging may increase the buttercup population because it can sprout from nodes along stem and root fragments.  
  • Chemical control is also an option. Before applying herbicides, read the label for full use and precautionary instructions. 
  • For further information on the selection and application of chemicals to protect your crop, contact AgriService BC at 1-888-221-7141 or email  
  • There are currently no biocontrol agents available for creeping buttercup in BC. 
Okanagan Distribution

Priority Level Definitions

Watch For - Poses a significant threat (very high risk) and does NOT presently occur in the region OR is relatively new to the region and is very limited in extent.
High - High risk/impact; limited population with significant potential to spread in the region.
Medium - Medium risk/impact; limited distribution – broader population distribution with potential to spread further in a region.
Low - Low risk/impact; may be widespread or not, may be of concern in specific situations with certain high values – e.g. specific agriculture crops. Some species may be treated primarily with biological control agents.