Herbs & Plants

Crowfoot, Upright Meadow

Botanical Name: Ranunculus acris
Family: Ranunculaceae
Order: Ranunculales
Genus: Ranunculus
Species:R. acris

Synonyms: Gold Cup. Grenouillette.

Common Names: Crowfoot, Upright Meadow, Meadow buttercup, Tall buttercup, Common buttercup and Giant buttercup.

Habitat: This Buttercup is a native of meadows and pastures in all the northern parts of Europe, including Britain, from Iceland south and east to Spain, through Asia to China and Japan..
It grows in Damp meadows and pastures, usually on calcareous or circum-neutral soils. Also found on damp rock ledges, in gullies and occasionally on mountain top detritus

Ranunculus acris is a herbaceous perennial plant that grows to a height of 30 – 70 cm, with ungrooved flowing stems bearing glossy yellow flowers about 25 mm across. There are five overlapping petals borne above five green sepals that soon turn yellow as the flower matures. It has numerous stamens inserted below the ovary. The leaves are compound, with three lobed leaflets. Unlike Ranunculus repens, the terminal leaflet is sessile. As with other members of the genus, the numerous seeds are borne as achenes. This and other buttercups contain ranunculin, which breaks down to the toxin protoanemonin, a chemical that can cause dermatitis and vomiting.

The leaves vary a good deal in form, according to their position on the plant: the lower leaves are on long petioles (foot-stalks) and are comprised of numerous wide-spreading and deeply divided segments; the upper leaves are small, composed of few segments, simple in form and few in number. The root is perennial, though the plant itself dies down each autumn, and has many long, white fibres.

It is in flower during June and July.The petals of the flower are bright, shining yellow; the calyx is composed of five greenish-yellow spreading sepals. The centre of the flower, as in other Buttercups, is a clustering mass of stamens round the smooth, green immature seed-vessels, which develop into a round head of numerous small bodies called achenes.


In horticulture the species may be regarded as a troublesome weed, colonising lawns and paths. However, it may be a welcome feature of wildflower meadows. The double-flowered cultivar R. acris ‘Flore Pleno’ has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Medicinal Uses:
The whole plant is acrid, anodyne, antispasmodic, diaphoretic and rubefacient. The plant has been crushed and applied as a poultice to the chest to relieve colds and chest pains. The fresh leaves have been used as a rubefacient in the treatment of rheumatism etc. The flowers and the leaves have been crushed and sniffed as a treatment for headaches. An infusion of the roots has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea. The poulticed root is also rubefacient and was applied to boils and abscess. The plant sap has been used to remove warts. The sap has also been used as a sedative. The flowers are used in Tibetan medicine, where they are considered to have an acrid taste and a heating potency. Their use is said to promote heat, dissolve tumours and draw out serous fluids. They are used in the treatment of disorders brought about by rotting sores or wounds. Use with caution, the whole plant is extremely acrid and can cause intense pain and burning of the mouth, mucous membranes etc

Thornton, in his Herbal of 100 years ago, says if a decoction of the plant be poured on ground containing worms, ‘they will be forced to rise from their concealment.

The Abenaki smash the flowers and leaves and sniff them for headaches. The Bella Coola apply a poultice of pounded roots to boils. The Micmac use the leaves for headaches. The Montagnais inhale the crushed leaves for headaches.

The Cherokee use it as a poultice for abscesses, use an infusion for oral thrush, and use the juice as a sedative. They also cook the leaves and eat them as greens.

The Iroquois apply a poultice of the smashed plant to the chest for pains and for colds, take an infusion of the roots for diarrhea, and apply a poultice of plant fragments with another plant to the skin for excess water in the blood.

Known Hazards: All parts of the plant are poisonous, the toxins can be destroyed by heat or by drying. The plant has a strongly acrid juice that can cause blistering to the skin.

It has been stated that even pulling it up and carrying it some little distance, has produced considerable inflammation in the palm of the hand, and that cattle will not readily eat it in the green state, and if driven by hunger to feed on it, their mouths become sore and blistered. According to Linnaeus, sheep and goats eat it, but cattle, horses and pigs refuse it. When made into hay, it loses its acrid quality, but then seems to be too hard and and stalky to yield much nourishment. The notion that the butter owes its yellow colour to the prevalence of buttercups in the meadows, is quite groundless – it is the richness of the pasture that communicates this colour to the butter and not these flowers which the cattle seldom or never touch willingly.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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