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Lapland Buttercup (Ranunculus lapponicus)

Life history

Species overview

Lapland Buttercup (Ranunculus lapponicus), a Wisconsin Endangered plant, is found in white cedar swamps. It is usually found near or within mucky depressions, seeps, groundwater springs, and similar cool, wet pockets, particularly where Sphagnum mosses are abundant and form extensive beds. Blooming occurs throughout June; fruiting occurs throughout July. The optimal identification period for this species is throughout June.

Synonyms: Coptidium lapponicum


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Leaves deeply 3-parted; flowers 1 cm wide.
  • Flower characteristics: Flowers yellow or white, 8 to 12 mm wide, mostly with 5 petals and with 3 sepals; pistils and stamens numerous.
  • Fruit characteristics: Achene oblong, 2 to 3 mm, swollen below, flattened above; beak slender, sharply curved or hooked.
  • Leaf characteristics: Leaves petioled, kidney-shaped, deeply 3-parted; cauline leaf solitary or absent, smaller and short-petioled if present.


  • Blooming phenology: throughout June
  • Fruiting phenology: throughout July
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is throughout June


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction: Rhizomatous
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Thuja occidentalis, Calypso bulbosa, Carex tenuiflora, C. vaginata, Mitella nuda, Coptis trifolia.

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 Lapland Buttercup (Ranunculus lapponicus). 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 lapponicus in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
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 white cedar swamps. It is usually found near or within mucky depressions, seeps, groundwater springs, and similar cool, wet pockets, particularly where Sphagnum mosses are abundant and form extensive beds.
  • Soils: Wet soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Lapland Buttercup. 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).

Natural communities score
Northern Wet-mesic Forest 3

Ecological landscapes

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

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological landscape score
Northwest Sands 3

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 direct disturbance to sensitive microsites such as seeps, cliffs, and moss-covered boulders.
  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • 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.

Management guidance

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

  • Avoid rapid and dramatic reductions in canopy cover or basal area in wet areas to reduce risk of swamping.
  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.


Lapland Buttercup Photo.

Photo © Emmet Judziewicz.

Lapland Buttercup Photo.

The Lapland buttercup is known in Wisconsin only from a handful of conifer swamps in the Northwest Sands.

Photo © Emmet Judziewicz.

Lapland Buttercup Photo.

Photo © Stephen White.

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