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Common Water Crowfoot

Ranunculus aquatilis

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life Cycle:
Annual or Perennial
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Ditches, mountains, ponds, water, wetland.

White, 5 petals
The Common Water Crowfoot boasts delicate and charming flowers with small white petals arranged in a star-like configuration. Blooming from late spring to early summer, these dainty blossoms add an ethereal touch to aquatic environments. Floating gracefully on the water's surface, the flowers contrast beautifully with the finely divided, feathery leaves that remain submerged. The aquatic perennial adapts to various water bodies, contributing to their ecological balance as an oxygenator. These UK-blossomed gems play a pivotal role in supporting aquatic life and serve as indicators of freshwater quality, making them not only aesthetically pleasing but ecologically significant.
The fruit of the Common Water Crowfoot is comprised of small, spherical achenes that develop after the flowering period. Encased within these achenes are the seeds of the plant, which are vital for its reproductive cycle. As the season progresses, the achenes mature and can be dispersed by water currents, aiding in the plant's ability to colonize new areas. The unassuming yet essential nature of these fruits contributes to the plant's resilience and adaptation in various aquatic environments, underscoring the significance of the Common Water Crowfoot in the ecological tapestry of freshwater ecosystems in the UK.
The leaves of the Common Water Crowfoot exhibit a distinctive and finely divided structure, creating a feathery appearance that characterizes the plant's submerged foliage. Adapted for life in aquatic environments, these leaves gracefully extend beneath the water's surface, their intricate design allowing for efficient nutrient absorption from the water. The flexible nature of the stems and leaves enables the Common Water Crowfoot to adapt to varying water depths and flow conditions, showcasing its resilience in the face of environmental changes. These aquatic leaves play a crucial role in the plant's overall ability to thrive in ponds, lakes, and slow-flowing streams throughout the United Kingdom, contributing to the aesthetic allure and ecological significance of this native perennial.
The Common Water Crowfoot does not typically possess a distinctive fragrance. Unlike some flowering plants that allure with scents, the charm of the Common Water Crowfoot lies predominantly in its visual appeal within aquatic ecosystems. With delicate white petals arranged in a star-like pattern, the plant blooms elegantly from late spring to early summer, enhancing the aesthetics of ponds, lakes, and slow-flowing streams across the United Kingdom. While the absence of a noticeable fragrance doesn't diminish its botanical significance, the Common Water Crowfoot captivates observers with its graceful presence and feathery leaves, making it a visually enchanting component of the freshwater landscape.
Other Names:
Water Buttercup, White Water-buttercup, White Water-crowfoot.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Ranunculus aquatilis, also known as water buttercup or common water crowfoot, is a species of flowering plant in the buttercup family. It is native to Europe and can be found in a variety of aquatic habitats, including streams, ponds, and marshes. The plant has delicate, white or pale yellow flowers with 5 petals and long, slender stems. It grows in shallow water and is adapted to fluctuating water levels. The leaves of R. aquatilis are divided into several narrow segments, giving them a feathery appearance. The plant is often used in aquaria and can also be found in gardens as an ornamental plant. It is a popular food source for many aquatic insects, as well as fish and birds.


Common Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis) is a flowering plant that is commonly found in freshwater bodies such as streams, ponds, and rivers. This plant is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa, but it has been introduced to many other parts of the world, including North America.

Water crowfoot is a fast-growing plant that can quickly colonize new habitats. It prefers still or slow-moving waters, and it can grow in water up to 1.5 meters deep. The plant is rooted in the sediment at the bottom of the waterbody, and its leaves and stems float on the surface.

The leaves of water crowfoot are triangular or circular in shape and are covered in fine hairs. The leaves are typically green and are attached to the stem by a long petiole. The stems are long and slender, and they can reach up to 30 centimeters in length. The flowers of water crowfoot are small, white, and have five petals. They bloom in the spring and early summer and are visited by a variety of pollinators.

Water crowfoot is an important plant for many aquatic animals and insects. The leaves provide a hiding place for small fish and amphibians, and the plant also provides a habitat for aquatic insects, such as dragonflies and damselflies. The seeds of water crowfoot are eaten by ducks, geese, and other waterbirds, and the leaves are a food source for some species of snails and caterpillars.

In addition to providing important habitat, water crowfoot is also a key component of freshwater ecosystems. It helps to maintain water quality by filtering out pollutants and reducing the amount of sediment in the water. The plant also helps to control erosion by stabilizing the sediment at the bottom of the waterbody.

Despite its importance, water crowfoot is under threat from human activities, such as dam construction and water pollution. In some parts of the world, water crowfoot has been deliberately removed from waterways in order to improve water quality and control erosion. However, in many cases, this has had the opposite effect, as the plant was playing an important role in maintaining water quality and preventing erosion.

Common Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis) is a fascinating and important plant that plays a key role in freshwater ecosystems. It provides habitat for a variety of animals and insects, and it helps to maintain water quality and prevent erosion. If you live near a freshwater body, be sure to keep an eye out for this fascinating plant, and help to protect it from harm.

Water crowfoot is also an important food source for many animals. The roots and leaves of the plant contain high levels of carbohydrates and are a valuable food source for many aquatic insects and small fish. The plant is also a valuable food source for herbivorous fish, such as carp, and for mammals such as muskrats.

In addition to its ecological importance, water crowfoot has also been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. The plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including skin conditions and digestive problems. The roots of the plant have been used to make a poultice that can be applied to wounds, and the plant has also been used as an herbal remedy to reduce inflammation and promote healing.

Water crowfoot is also an important plant for the recreational activities. The plant provides a beautiful and natural setting for boating, fishing, and swimming, and it is an important source of shade for fish and other aquatic animals. The plant also provides a valuable source of oxygen for the water, which is essential for the survival of fish and other aquatic life.

However, despite its many benefits, water crowfoot is also vulnerable to several threats. The plant is threatened by water pollution, which can kill the plant and disrupt its growth. The plant is also vulnerable to damage from boating and other recreational activities, which can cause physical damage to the stems and leaves. Climate change is also a threat to water crowfoot, as it can change the water levels and temperatures in the water, causing stress to the plant.

To help protect water crowfoot, it is important to monitor water quality and to prevent water pollution. It is also important to minimize the impact of recreational activities on the plant, by avoiding boating and other activities in areas where the plant is growing. By protecting water crowfoot, we can help to preserve the health and beauty of our freshwater ecosystems for generations to come.

In addition to these conservation measures, it is also important to study water crowfoot in order to better understand its ecology and behavior. Scientists are working to learn more about the plant's life cycle, growth patterns, and habitat requirements, and this information is helping to inform conservation efforts.

One area of research that is of particular interest is the role of water crowfoot in nutrient cycling in freshwater ecosystems. Scientists are exploring how the plant takes up nutrients from the water, and how it transfers these nutrients to other parts of the ecosystem, including other plants and animals. This information is helping to improve our understanding of the complex relationships that exist between different species in freshwater ecosystems, and it is providing valuable insights into how we can better manage these ecosystems in the future.

Water crowfoot is also an important plant for education and outreach. By studying water crowfoot, people of all ages can learn about the important role that plants play in freshwater ecosystems, and they can also learn about the impact that humans are having on these ecosystems. By educating people about the importance of water crowfoot and other aquatic plants, we can help to raise awareness about the need to protect these valuable resources.

In conclusion, Common Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis) is a fascinating and important plant that plays a crucial role in freshwater ecosystems. It provides habitat for a variety of animals and insects, helps to maintain water quality, and is an important food source for many species. By protecting water crowfoot and learning more about its ecology and behavior, we can help to ensure the health and beauty of our freshwater ecosystems for generations to come.

25 Facts About Common Water Crowfoot

  1. Scientific Name: The Common Water Crowfoot is scientifically known as Ranunculus aquatilis.

  2. Aquatic Perennial: It is a perennial aquatic plant that is often found in ponds, lakes, and slow-flowing streams.

  3. Submerged Growth: Common Water Crowfoot primarily grows submerged in water, with its leaves and flowers floating on the water's surface.

  4. Feathery Leaves: The plant has finely divided, feathery leaves that are submerged in water. These leaves are adapted to the aquatic environment.

  5. White Petals: The flowers of Common Water Crowfoot have small white petals arranged in a star-like pattern. Each flower typically has five petals.

  6. Flowering Season: Common Water Crowfoot blooms in late spring to early summer, producing delicate and attractive flowers.

  7. Habitat Range: It can be found in various aquatic habitats, ranging from still waters to slow-flowing rivers.

  8. Oxygenator: Common Water Crowfoot plays a role as an oxygenator in water bodies, releasing oxygen during photosynthesis.

  9. Wildlife Habitat: The plant provides habitat and food for various aquatic insects and small aquatic creatures.

  10. Adaptation to Flow: Its flexible stems and leaves allow it to adapt to changes in water flow, making it resilient in different aquatic environments.

  11. Hydrophilic Roots: Common Water Crowfoot has roots adapted for absorbing nutrients from the water, aiding in its growth.

  12. Cold Tolerance: It can tolerate cold temperatures, allowing it to thrive in temperate climates.

  13. Propagation: Common Water Crowfoot can reproduce through both seeds and vegetative propagation, spreading across water bodies.

  14. Ecological Importance: It contributes to the ecological balance of aquatic ecosystems by stabilizing sediments and providing habitat for various aquatic organisms.

  15. Aquatic Indicator: The presence and health of Common Water Crowfoot can serve as an indicator of water quality in freshwater systems.

  16. Variable Growth Forms: It exhibits variable growth forms, ranging from submersed to emergent, depending on water depth and conditions.

  17. Rooted in Substrate: Although primarily a submerged plant, it is often rooted in the substrate at the bottom of water bodies.

  18. Sunlight Requirement: Common Water Crowfoot prefers areas with ample sunlight for optimal growth and flowering.

  19. Invasive Potential: In some regions, it can be considered invasive, forming dense mats that may outcompete native aquatic vegetation.

  20. Cultural Uses: Historically, some indigenous communities have used parts of the Common Water Crowfoot for medicinal purposes.

  21. Pollination Mechanism: Common Water Crowfoot is often pollinated by water or small insects that visit its flowers.

  22. Seed Dispersal: Seeds are dispersed by water currents, aiding in the plant's colonization of new areas.

  23. Tolerant of Murky Waters: It can tolerate water with varying levels of turbidity, making it adaptable to different water conditions.

  24. Seasonal Growth: The growth of Common Water Crowfoot may vary seasonally, with increased activity during the warmer months.

  25. Conservation Concerns: In some regions, there are conservation efforts to protect the habitat of Common Water Crowfoot due to its ecological importance and sensitivity to environmental changes.


Video 1: Common Water Crowfoot filmed at the Lead Mines Clough, Lancashire on the 6th June 2023 and at Hic Bibi LNR in Coppull, Lancashire, on the 19th May and 7th June 2023.


Video 2: Common Water Crowfoot filmed at Smardale in Cumbria on the 16th June 2023.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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