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Greater Spearwort

Ranunculus lingua

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Bogs, ditches, fens, gardens, marshes, riverbanks, swamps, water, waterside, wetland.

Yellow, 5 petals
Very large, golden yellow, glossy, buttercup-like flower, up to 5cm wide. 5 petals per flower.
Winged on one side with a curved beak.
Alternate, spear-shaped leaves which are weak-toothed and up to 25cm in length. Short-stalked, or stalkless.
Other Names:
Large-flowered Buttercup, Tongue-leaved Buttercup, Water Spearwort.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Ranunculus lingua, also known as large-flowered buttercup or tongue-leaved buttercup, is a species of perennial herb in the Ranunculaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia, and it is known for its large, showy flowers that can be yellow, white, or pink in color. The petals of the flowers are glossy and ruffled, and the leaves are deeply lobed. The plant prefers moist, well-drained soil and partial shade, and it is often used as a cut flower or in garden beds and borders.


Greater Spearwort, or Ranunculus lingua, is a stunning flowering plant native to Europe and Asia. This plant is part of the buttercup family and is known for its tall stems, showy yellow flowers, and lance-shaped leaves. In this blog, we'll dive deeper into the characteristics, habitat, and uses of the Greater Spearwort.


The Greater Spearwort is a perennial herbaceous plant that can grow up to 1.5 meters in height. It has a thick, cylindrical stem, which can be hollow or pithy. The leaves are lance-shaped, and the edges are serrated. The leaves are usually 10-30cm long, and they are dark green in color. The plant produces bright yellow flowers that can reach up to 6cm in diameter. The flowers have five to seven petals and a central cluster of yellow stamens. The plant blooms in late spring to early summer.


The Greater Spearwort is found in damp or wet soils, such as along rivers and streams, in marshes, and in swamps. It prefers full sun to partial shade and can tolerate cold temperatures. The plant can be found in Europe and Asia, and it has also been introduced to North America.


The Greater Spearwort has been used for various purposes throughout history. In traditional medicine, the plant was used to treat a variety of ailments, including rheumatism, skin conditions, and digestive problems. However, it is not recommended to use this plant for medicinal purposes as it contains toxic substances, including protoanemonin, which can cause skin irritation, blistering, and other health problems.

The plant also has some horticultural uses, as it can be grown as an ornamental plant in water gardens or along the edge of ponds. It can add a bright splash of color to wetland environments.

The Greater Spearwort is a beautiful plant with a long history of medicinal and horticultural uses. However, it is important to exercise caution when handling this plant, as it contains toxic substances. If you're interested in growing this plant in your garden or water feature, make sure to research proper care and handling techniques to avoid any potential health risks.

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The Greater Spearwort is also an important plant for wildlife, as it provides habitat and food for many species. The plant's yellow flowers are a favorite of bees and other pollinators, and its leaves and stems provide shelter for amphibians and other wetland creatures. The plant's seeds are also an important food source for birds.

However, it is important to note that the Greater Spearwort can become invasive in some areas, especially in wetland environments. The plant can spread quickly and outcompete native species, leading to a decrease in biodiversity. As a result, it is important to only plant the Greater Spearwort in areas where it is not likely to cause harm to the local ecosystem.

In terms of cultivation, the Greater Spearwort is relatively easy to grow. It prefers damp, acidic soil and can be planted in full sun to partial shade. The plant can be propagated through division or by sowing seeds in the fall. It is important to keep the soil moist during the growing season, as the plant requires a lot of water.

The Greater Spearwort is a beautiful and important plant with a rich history and many uses. While it is important to be cautious when handling this plant due to its toxicity, it can be a great addition to water gardens or wetland environments. With proper care and management, the Greater Spearwort can provide a valuable habitat and food source for wildlife while also adding a bright splash of color to your garden.

One interesting fact about the Greater Spearwort is that it was used in folklore and mythology. In some cultures, it was believed that the plant had magical powers and could be used to ward off evil spirits or to bring good luck. It was also associated with the sun and was sometimes used in sun worship rituals. While these beliefs may not be scientifically sound, they do speak to the cultural significance of this beautiful plant.

Additionally, the Greater Spearwort has been the subject of scientific study for its potential medicinal properties. While the plant is toxic when consumed raw, some compounds found in the plant have shown promise in treating certain medical conditions. For example, a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that an extract from the Greater Spearwort had anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects in rats. However, more research is needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of using the plant for medicinal purposes.

Overall, the Greater Spearwort is a fascinating plant with many interesting characteristics and uses. From its beautiful flowers to its potential medicinal properties, this plant has a lot to offer. Whether you're interested in growing it for its ornamental value or for its potential benefits, it is important to handle the plant with care and to respect its potential toxicity. With proper management, the Greater Spearwort can be a valuable addition to any garden or wetland environment.


Greater Spearwort filmed at Kirklees Nature Reserve in Wigan, Lancashire on the 9th June 2023.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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