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Bulbous Buttercup

Did You Know?

Problems with buttercups:

  • Can be toxic to horses
  • Grows in nutrient-deficient soils

How to get rid of buttercups:

  • Improve growing conditions
  • Treat with herbicides

Information by Rakesh Chandran, Ph.D., WVU Extension Service Weed Science Specialist

What’s Up, Bulbous Buttercup?

We can all remember picking those tiny, yellow flowers and holding them under our friends’ chins to see if they “like butter.” Spotting buttercups in your lawns and pastures is sure to bring back childhood memories, but for some, the sight of it might not be as joyous.

Bulbous Buttercup Identification

Bulbous buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus) is a perennial weed prevalent in pastures and hayfields, and occasionally, in lawns and gardens. It produces bright yellow flowers with cup-shaped petals glistened by a shiny upper surface when held against sunlight – and causing a reflection under our chins.  

Two closely related species are creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens) and tall buttercup (Ranunculus acris). However, bulbous buttercups have a characteristic bulb-shaped base, referred to as ‘corm,’ just beneath the soil surface and reflexed or curved sepals that are pointed towards the stem.

Controls for Bulbous Buttercup

It comes to bloom from mid-April to May and are considered to be toxic to animals, especially horses, by virtue of a toxic glycoside called ranunculin. They tend to grow in nutrient-deficient soils and can be managed culturally by improving the growing conditions.

Seeds germinate during fall months forming rosettes that can remain dormant in the fields during winter months. Shoots from the corm emerge as the soil starts to warm up during early spring.  Tank-mixtures containing both 2,4-D and dicamba (several formulations) along with a surfactant provide good control when applied in early spring while the rosettes are actively growing and getting ready to bloom.


Author: Rakesh Chandran, WVU Extension Weed Science Specialist
Last Reviewed: June 2018

Recommendations for the use of agricultural chemicals are included as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services does not imply endorsement by West Virginia University Extension Service nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use agricultural chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage regulations and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact your county Cooperative Extension agent.

field of buttercups