Also called creeping crowsfoot, this invasive weed is poisonous to cattle, as are other varieties of Ranunculus. It enjoys heavy, nutrient rich soils, and can be found mainly in wet grasslands, woods and ditches throughout Scotland.
It spreads by creeping, ie, throwing out surface runners, or ‘stolons’, along the ground which then root at intervals.
Its flowers are slightly larger than the Ranunculus acris, about 20-30mm in diameter. They grow upright on furrowed and hairy stalks, and have 5 or 6 petals and upright spreading green sepals. Like all the Ranunculus species they are hardy perennials.
The leaves are deeply lobed, with three to seven toothed leaflets, with fine hairs and white spots.
Ranunculus is a derivative of rana, which means little frog. This nomenclature is due to its amphibious nature, being a lover of wet and even flooded soils. Like all Ranunculus it is poisonous, with an acrid taste which cattle avoid.
Ancient cultures have used its crushed flowers and leaves as a sedative, to cure headaches, and even the roots have been used as an infusion for diarrhoea. The plant contains the toxin ranunculin, and if eaten raw the flowers and leaves cause vomiting and dermatitis.