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Small Yellow Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus gmelinii)

Life history

Species overview

Small Yellow Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus gmelinii), a Wisconsin Endangered plant, is found in cold brooks and springs and in the shallow water and muddy shores of ditches, streams, and lakes. Blooming occurs late June through late August; fruiting occurs early July through early September. The optimal identification period for this species is late June through early September.

Synonyms: Ranunculus gmelinii ssp. purshii, R. gmelinii var. gmelinii, R. gmelinii var. hookeri, R. gmelinii var. limosus, R. gmelinii var. prolificus, R. gmelinii var. purshii, R. gmelinii var. terrestris, R. limosus, R. purshii


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Margin of achenes rounded but not swollen; petals mostly 4 to 8 mm.
  • Flower characteristics: Sepals 4 to 6 mm; petals mostly 4 to 8 mm, yellow or white.
  • Fruit characteristics: Achenes nearly or quite smooth on the sides, the margins rounded but not swollen or conspicuously corky; beak 0.4 to 0.7 mm.
  • Leaf characteristics: Segments of the submersed leaves mostly 2 to 4 mm wide; emersed leaves pentagonal, the principal segments lobed and crenately toothed.


  • Blooming phenology: late June through late August
  • Fruiting phenology: early July through early September
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is late June through early September


  • Growth form: Aquatic forb-emergent
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Petasites sagittatus, Alnus rugosa, Larix laricina, Carex lacustris, C. utriculata, Sparganium glomeratum, Thuja occidentalis.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Small Yellow Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus gmelinii). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Ranunculus gmelinii in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in cold brooks and springs and in the shallow water and muddy shores of ditches, streams, and lakes.
  • Soils: Wet soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Small Yellow Water Crowfoot. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Small Yellow Water Crowfoot. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • This species is likely sensitive to water quality. Following BMPs around streams and buffering associated drainages will reduce eutrophication and prevent water quality degradation.
  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.
  • Avoid disturbance to shorelines and the forest-beach interface.


Small Yellow Water Crowfoot Photo.

Photo by Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR.

Small Yellow Water Crowfoot Photo.

Photo by Thomas Meyer, Wisconsin DNR.

Small Yellow Water Crowfoot Photo.

Photo by  staff, Wisconsin DNR.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition